UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

NHS in crisis - a crisis of resources, funding & confidence

Another week and another raft of government initiatives on the health service. Initiatives which have little to do with improving health care of the nation, but designed to deflect attention from the real cause of the current crisis. Let's be absolutely clear the perilous state of the NHS has nothing to do with the time of year, the weather, nor rampant sociopaths masquerading as health workers waiting to inflict cruel torture on some un-expecting patient.

The crisis is a crisis of funding, lack of resources, and of confidence. A carefully thought out strategy to inflict as much damage on the NHS that it will justify the Tory offensive for a wholesale takeover by the private sector after the next general election. To succeed they need to detoxify their policy on health. What better way than to cripple the current system and destroy the patients' and staffs' confidence in the service.

But back to this week's instalment of the war on the NHS. First up we get the medical director of NHS England proposing a major overhaul of A&E services. Keogh argues his proposals are designed to meet the crisis in emergency care. Let's pause for a moment and ask why is there a crisis in our A&E units. The government completely wrecked NHS Direct which had a proven record in reducing attendances at A&E. A highly skilled service which won the confidence of health experts and patients.

But the government's botched reorganisation stripped the service of the professional advice which ensured patients could be treated and monitored in their home. Then there was the fiasco around GP 'out of hours' service where private companies running the service on a shoe string failed the patients in their care. Is it any wonder that patients turn up at casualty departments. The waiting time may have grown but at least they will get seen to and treated. Keogh's announcement although given huge media coverage was very thin on detail.

There is no thought about the infrastructure for primary care and urgent care support. This needs to be in place in advance of any changes to the major trauma centres. If not, the mere reduction in current provision will be seen as further cuts to essential services, and will be a recipe for disaster.

Secondly we had Hunt's big idea that everyone over 75 will have a named GP to oversee their care. This is pure window dressing and has as much substance as the so called patient choice initiatives of the past. What all patients need, irrespective of their age, is a well resourced local health centre which can respond quickly, and appropriately to their health needs. Hunt's gimmicks will not deliver this.

Finally for this week we get the Health Secretary's coup-de-grace with the announcement that the government intends to criminalise health professionals. Though no one would condone poor treatment, the hysteria created by the Tories and their vicious mouth pieces like the Daily Mail is not borne out by the facts. Most failings in quality of health care as occurred in Mid-Staffordshire is a direct result of unrealistic financial targets and massive budget cuts.

The evidence of wilful abuse is minuscule and as has already been shown can be addressed by existing laws. Hunt's announcement is just another attempt to demonise the majority of hard working NHS workers. It will be interesting to see how many GPs will accept being the named carer for the over 75's in their practice if lack of funding means they could face up to five years in goal because they failed to provide adequate care.

Cuts, privatisation, and reorganisation is the real cause of the current health crisis. Not satisfied with the £20 billion savings already demanded by the government over 5 years, health organisations have been told that savings earmarked for 2015/2016 must be brought forward to the next financial year. This means a further £500 million cuts on already financially strapped NHS Trusts. It is no longer sustainable and the system will collapse under this pressure.

2014 can be the year to save the NHS. But we must start the fight back now. Trade unions, patient groups, pensioners and communities need to join together and demand that this destruction stops. We must lobby politicians, commissioners, NHS Trust Boards, demanding proper funding and resources for our services. Any service reorganisations must be based on patient outcomes and not a cover for financial cuts. We can save the service and more importantly build a modern health care system that will we and future generations will proud of for years to come.