Swindon TUC Press Release March 13th 2010
‘Efficiency savings’ in the NHS threaten services
The NHS is facing massive ‘efficiency savings’ in the order of £15-20 billion in the period up to 2013/14. These will be shared out between the ten Strategic Health Authorities. The South West SHA (in which Swindon is included) estimates that its share will be between £1.5 and £2 billion. Over six years it says it will have to save £9.45 billion “in cumulative cash terms”, or 34% on its projected spending.
Whilst we do not yet know the exact implications of this budget crisis for Swindon, what we do know is that the new treatment centres which have come on stream could mean Great Western Hospital losing £2 million a year.
Director of the campaigning group Health Emergency (http://www.healthmergency.org.uk) , John Lister says:
“Cutbacks on this scale threaten real problems across the country. There is no guarantee that any of the proposals put forward so far for diverting patients from A&E and outpatients to health centres and polyclinics will save any money, let alone the massive sums needed. However, we know they will definitely take vital funds out of hospital budgets. It seems certain that services, beds and whole hospitals will be forced to close, leaving patients with longer journeys to access health care.
Thousands of health workers jobs could be axed in every region. But it’s clear that patients and the public are being deliberately kept in the dark as these plans for unacceptable cuts are hatched behind closed doors.
Obviously these cuts are driven first and foremost NOT by NHS or public sector failure, but by the deficit caused by the banking crisis. But instead of cutting wasteful spending on management consultants profiteering private provider and pointless NHS bureaucracy, these cuts are biting into the bone of basic frontline services. Health bosses everywhere must be told this will not be accepted.”
Swindon TUC Secretary Martin Wicks said:
“The formation of the NHS marked a significant civilising step in a society in which prior to 1948 health provision was a commodity which many could not afford, or for which they had to fall back on charity. Despite its weaknesses the NHS took healthcare out of the market and turned it into a right, available on need regardless of the financial circumstances of a patient.
Thatcher began the process of commercialisation of the service, introducing an ‘internal market’. Prior to its election in 1997 Labour proposed to end the internal market. Instead they introduced a ‘mixed economy of health’ in which trusts and private companies compete with each other. Foundation Trusts are left to fend for themselves in a war of each against every other. Hence Swindon & Marlborough Trust has taken out an overdraft facility for £13 million, for which it had to £100,000 for 2 years (even if it does not draw on the facility).
The basic premise of the government’s strategy is that competition will ‘improve performance’. However,in abandoning the founding principles of the NHS they have forced trusts to act more and more like businesses. Whilst they have not yet abandoned the provision of service free at the point of use, the fact that Trusts have to break even year on year means that the needs of patients are secondary to financial considerations.
This is highlighted by the decision of the government to penalise trusts for doing ‘too much’ work. From this April any trust carrying out emergency procedures above the level for 2008-9 will be harshly penalised to the extent of being given only 30% of the tariff (the price determined by the government) for each procedure. The bitter irony of this is that in encouraging private companies into the healthcare sector the government has been paying private companies for work they have not done (i.e. a guaranteed price for a contract regardless of whether they carry out the amount of contracted work that they were supposed to so).
The level of cuts which are being proposed across the system can only lead to a steep increase in pressure on resources and a worsening of the service. An end to the health market would be a rational means of saving money since there would be no need for an army of people to police its operation. We need cooperation not competition.”
John Lister is one of the speakers at the Swindon TUC conference on March 20th.(Campaigning for Public Services). Anybody interested in attending should book a place – email firstname.lastname@example.org or ring 07786394593
For the Press: for further comment ring Martin Wicks on 07786394593