The NHS reforms, announced today (Thursday 11 February) by health and social care secretary Matt Hancock, fail to address the key concerns of extra funding for the health service, the ‘recruitment and retention’ crisis, and how patients will benefit in a practical way.

Unite the union, which has 100,000 members in the health service, said that there was too much rhetoric from Matt Hancock on tackling bureaucracy and not enough about how the integration of health and social care would function on a daily basis.

Unite said that the 2012 Health and Social Care Act, spearheaded by the then health secretary Andrew Lansley, is recognised as being a disaster, fragmenting services and ‘giving too much sway to the profit-hungry private sector’. 

Unite national officer for health Jackie Williams said: “The devil will be in the detail as to how the promised improvements will roll-out.

“The early indications that it won’t remove the private sector – a key component of the 2012 Act - and no change in the rules of procurement of non-clinical services.

“Unite supports the removal of section 75 that brought NHS commissioning under EU procurement legislation.

“But we have little faith that ministers have lost their obsession with outsourcing health services, despite the private sector’s abject failure over the ‘test and trace’ programme roll-out and the fiasco of how the PPE contracts were awarded.

“The successful implementation of the vaccination programme by the NHS ‘family’, with more than 13 million people receiving their first dose, is a tribute not only to the doctors, nurses and army of volunteers, but what a health service unencumbered by unnecessary private sector involvement can achieve – truly, a heroic effort.

“There  seems to be no plan to grapple with the ‘recruitment and retention’ staff crisis which sees NHS staff vacancies ranging from an estimated 80,000 to 100,000, many of them nursing posts desperately needed in the battle against Covid-19. NHS staff are exhausted after a year of caring for Covid-19 patients.”

Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said: “We need to hear more from Matt Hancock about how his reforms will lead to tangible benefits for patients and staff. 

“The integration of health and social care, long delayed, but desperately necessary, will need a serious amount of funding. Matt Hancock has repeatedly said that the government is ‘committed' to providing the extra funding – the figure of at least £4bn is often quoted.   

“That commitment must be translated into action because the success of the NHS depends on rapidly improving social care provision in this country. 

“The lessons of the pandemic have provided a big opportunity for a reset as to how the government has viewed an under-resourced NHS and an underpaid workforce over the last decade. 

“It is time for the rhetoric to give way to a practical blueprint for revitalising the NHS and restoring the morale of its dedicated workforce.” 


Notes to editors:

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Unite press office is on:  020 3371 2065.

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Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.