Health secretary Jeremy Hunt should stop behaving like a handwringing spectator, roll up his sleeves and take hands-on responsibility for the NHS, Unite, the largest union in the country, said today (Tuesday 16 July).
Unite, which has 100,000 members in the health service, was commenting on today’s Keogh report into the high death rates at 14 NHS trusts.
Unite head of health Rachael Maskell said: “Since Jeremy Hunt took up his job 10 months ago, he has been like a handwringing spectator blaming everyone else for the problems faced by the increasingly privatised NHS, except himself.
“He needs to roll up his sleeves and take responsibility for what is happening under his very eyes.
“Compassion for the families whose loved ones needlessly died should be at the forefront of ministerial concern.
“As a first step, Jeremy Hunt should immediately introduce emergency legislation to parliament so he can resume responsibility for the NHS and sort out the expensive privatised dog’s dinner that is the Health and Social Care Act. The Tories wrote themselves out of being able to do anything to amend the act
“The Francis report into the grave abuses at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust has to be implemented in full. Since the report came out, we have seen unworkable headlines, but no action - we cannot continue with this time wasting ‘fiddling while Rome burns’ approach.”
In February, Unite welcomed the Francis report, particularly the importance of whistleblowing on poor practice; the regulation of healthcare support workers; and hiding information about poor care becoming a criminal offence. Unite also called for all NHS institutions to have an independent ‘patient safety officer’, so staff and patients can raise concerns without reprisal.
Rachael Maskell added: “It is for the governors and management of the NHS to ensure that they set out safer pathways as that’s what they are paid to do; and that there is sufficient staff to deliver medical care 24/7, 365 days a year. The current scapegoating of staff is no longer acceptable.
“From now on, clinical evidence has to be the template for all that happens in the NHS - not cutting costs, services and staff numbers and introducing cuts to the skill mix. Money saving short cuts lead to shorter life spans and risks to patient care.
“The public also need to be able to raise concerns independently and easily. We need the restoration of the powers of community health councils (CHCs) to investigate complaints, not the current toothless HealthWatch.”
For further information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 07768 693940
Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey