Socialized Medicine? The Brits “Health Care”…Toast

Monday, June 28, 2010
By Paul Martin

NHS suffering devastating cuts to jobs and services, warns BMA

The NHS is suffering potentially devastating cuts to jobs and patient services as the Government’s austerity drive hits the health service, doctors’ leaders have warned.

By Kate Devlin
27 Jun 2010

Thousands of doctors and nurses face being made redundant or not replaced if they leave, while many hospitals have cut treatments, the British Medical Association has found.

Despite ministers’ assurances that the health service would not face the same cuts as other departments, many hospitals are feeling the strain, according to the BMA.

Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, has boasted that frontline services would be protected. But it emerged yesterday that in his Cambridge constituency, Addenbrooke’s Hospital is planning to sack 170 nurses and up to 500 staff in total over the next year.

A survey for the BMA asked 361 doctors, who between them represent committees at all of Britain’s hospital trusts and some larger primary care trusts, how the NHS was being affected by the demand to make £20billion of cuts.

It comes as the Coalition faces political pressure to reverse its pledge to ring-fence health spending.

The BMA found that 43 per cent of those who responded said there was a freeze on recruiting doctors and nurses at their trust. Almost as many, 40 per cent, said that patient treatments, including varicose vein operations and blood tests, were being rationed.

GPs in Bedfordshire said they had been told not to refer patients with certain conditions, such as skin lesions and cysts, to hospitals except in exceptional circumstances.

Nearly a quarter of those who responded said that their trust was planning to make workers redundant. Although the majority of these would not affect frontline staff, the union warned that cuts to administrative workers could force doctors and nurses to spend more time on these duties and less time with patients.

The poll – to which 92 doctors responded – represents the first real evidence of how the NHS has been hit by the cuts. It found trusts were trying to make annual savings of six per cent on average. The Government has promised to guarantee NHS spending growth in real terms but the BMA says this will be “minimal”. The association called the cuts potentially “devastating”.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, the chairman of the BMA, said: “Whilst we accept that difficult decisions need to be taken in this tight financial climate, there is a real danger that cutting back on health now will have a long-lasting impact on our ability to maintain high-quality, comprehensive and universal care in the future.”

The warning came as senior Tories broke ranks to object to plans to protect health service funding.

Lord Lawson, the former Chancellor, and Nadine Dorries, a Tory member of the Commons health select committee, said that health funding should not be ring-fenced.

Ms Dorries told the BBC’s Politics Show: “I think we need to find the political courage to accept that there is excessive waste in the NHS and that it’s unfair to expect other departments to take all the hits.”

The Royal College of Nursing said earlier this year that about 5,600 jobs were under threat across 26 hospital trusts. In a “worst case scenario”, the true figure could be as high as 30,000, it said.

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: “Alongside all the public services, the NHS will need to deliver significant savings over the coming years.

“The department is very clear that savings should be implemented in a way that does not affect the quality of services and the Secretary of State has been very clear that every penny saved will be reinvested back into patient care.”

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