Health bosses across Britain are threatening thousands of job cuts and a new wave of hospital closures—and that’s before the government’s spending review in October.
The situation in Oxfordshire is typical. Unison union activists last week discovered a plan to slash jobs buried deep in a management report.
The union estimates that the equivalent of 4,000 full-time jobs could be cut over the next three and a half years.
NHS Oxfordshire employs the equivalent of 14,239 full time workers. One in three of them could be on the dole by 2014.
Elsewhere, primary care trusts are preparing for the government’s White Paper on the NHS by cutting their spending by 4 percent a year.
The result is a haemorrhaging of jobs that will drastically affect patient care.
One trust in Northern Ireland has already axed 2,500 jobs in two years, while Central Manchester expects to lose 400 jobs every year for four years.
The Tories’ plan is to further increase the role of the market in the health service and turn the NHS into a logo that will be stuck on to services provided by private contractors.
When I first started work as a nurse in 1982, elderly care and dentistry were both provided by the NHS. Both are now almost entirely in private hands. The aim is to do the same with all other services.
And, Tory promises to stop the closure of accident and emergency units, made during the general election campaign, are proving to be worthless.
Queen Mary’s in Sidcup, London, revealed last week that it would be shutting its A&E and maternity units—despite a promise by local Tory MP James Brokenshire that this would not happen. These stories make for grim reading, but the situation is not hopeless.
In Central Manchester Hospitals some 1,600 staff have attended union meetings in protest at management attempts to impose a new contract of employment with worse conditions on them (see 'Trusts to break national pay deal' below).
In Sandwell, in the West Midlands, around 100 people lobbied their primary care trust to stop it being turned from part of the NHS into a “social enterprise”. The plan was then abandoned.
Similar action has won victories in the Wirral, Devon and in Shropshire.
And Unison is planning many regional protests with other unions as part of the European day of action on Wednesday.
There is massive public support for keeping the NHS public and stopping any cuts.
The unions have a crucial role to play in mobilising that feeling and harnessing it to action by all of us that work for the health service.
Trusts to break national pay deal
Are there plans to end national pay rates in the NHS? That’s the question after it was revealed that bosses at five NHS trusts are planning to break the national agreement on pay and conditions in the health service.
In Central Manchester Hospitals senior bosses have announced they will no longer allow staff to automatically progress up the pay scale as their length of service grows.
Workers who have been off sick four times in a year, been disciplined, or not been able to complete training—for whatever reason—will not be able to move up the scale.
This could be the thin edge of the wedge. Foundation trusts across the country are already said to be discussing similar plans.
By breaking our nationally agreed terms and conditions, they are throwing down the gauntlet to the unions. We must ensure that they meet the utmost resistance.
Karen Reissmann is a member of Unison’s health service group executive. She writes in a personal capacity. Keep Our NHS Public meeting—Opposing the White Paper and defending the NHS: Monday 11 October, 7pm. Boothroyd Room, Portcullis House, London SW1