Big questions need to be answered on how the new five-year blueprint to provide NHS services will be implemented, Unite, the country’s largest union, said today (Thursday 23 October).
Unite, which has 100,000 members in the health service, said that the crucial questions posed by The NHS Forward View are how is it going to be paid for with an increasingly ageing population and who was going to provide the new models of care outlined – the NHS or the private sector?
Unite head of health Rachael Maskell said: “The best investment that the government could make in the NHS is the immediate scrapping of the Health and Social Care Act which has already squandered £3 billion in a pointless reorganisation.
“Simon Stevens, the new chief executive of NHS England, makes precious little mention of the plummeting morale of the 1.3 million workforce which is becoming a worrying pattern for this government with its continued failure to invest in skills, retention and development.
“In the last four years the NHS has been battered by the funding crisis resulting in £20 billion being sucked out of the service during this parliament.
“The picture remains very bleak and it is clear that the plan will not plug the predicted £30 billion financial black hole by 2020/21.
“This will be impossible to deliver in five years – if you are talking about a real improvement in health prevention, retraining and realigning the roles of NHS staff, together with integration of health and social care.
“The NHS has been also been hit by the helter-skelter dash to privatise services with 56 per cent of new contracts going to private healthcare companies in the last year.
“There is also the financial albatross of the private finance initiatives (PFI) which is bringing many hospitals to their knees.
“One positive to take from this plan is that it will focus the minds of politicians of all parties for the need to provide a suitable financial framework to underpin the NHS going forward.”
Unite is also calling for Stevens to disclose the legal advice the NHS and Department of Health has received on the potential impact of TTIP, the controversial US-EU trade deal, which could make the Tory sell-off of local services irreversible.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “We have consistently warned that TTIP means the irreversible privatisation of the NHS – what is the Department of Health trying to hide?
“The government has spent months trying to hide or even deny that the NHS was in the scope of TTIP now it transpires it sought and received legal advice on the trade deal. It’s extremely worrying that the Department of Health is refusing to release it.
“As head of the NHS we are calling on Simon Stevens to intervene and tell the people of this country how TTIP will affect our health. Our country is united against this trade deal and the disastrous impact it will have on our health. The people of this country oppose it, parties from across the political spectrum oppose it, unions and NGOs oppose it. It’s time Simon Stevens intervenes and it’s time for Cameron to use his veto and exclude the NHS from TTIP.”
The document issued today is the first major initiative on the future of the NHS since Simon Stevens took up his post.
For further information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 07768 693940 and/or the Unite press office on 020 3371 2065.
Notes to editors:
- Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.