Health and welfare bill is beyond repair, says UK's largest union

By staff writers
13 Jun 2011

Britain's largest union says that the Future Forum’s report into the NHS Health and Social Care Bill shows a set of proposals beyond repair.

Even if the Government adopted all the report’s recommendations, “It is still the wrong Bill at the wrong time,” Dave Prentis, General Secretary of UNISON, declared yesterday (13 June 2011).

Really big questions over critical issues such as privatisation remain unanswered, say critics of the government's reforms. Just how will the coalition prevent "cherry-picking" of profitable aspects of the service, they ask?

And why are there no limits on the amount and range of services that can be privatised if there are no intentions in that direction, as Mr Cameron and his colleagues publicly claim?

Mr Prentis continued: “The Forum is recommending sweeping changes to the Bill because it is riddled with flaws. It exposes the real agenda behind the Government’s Bill – the wholesale marketisation of the NHS. It wants to turn our health service into nothing more than a logo on the side of a van run by a multinational company."

“The Forum’s changes may airbrush out some of the flaws, but no amount of fiddling round the edges is good enough when the future of an NHS free and accessible to all is at stake. The Bill is beyond repair and should be scrapped," he added.

“Crucially, the report fails to mention the importance of keeping the cap on the number of private patients hospitals can treat. This means that NHS patients are likely to find themselves at the end of a very long queue," said the UNISON leader.

“Cameron may say he is not privatising the NHS and that it is safe from cuts, but the reality in hospitals and primary care services up and down the country tells a different story. The Government is using the Bill as a smokescreen to cover what is happening right now in the NHS. The £20 billion that the Government is demanding from Trusts in so-called efficiency savings is leading to longer waiting lists, patients waiting in pain for their operations and job cuts across the NHS.

“The Government is belatedly beginning to realise it has gone too far. The outcry from the public and from health unions and professionals is forcing it to think again. But cobbling together a half-hearted compromise will not help the NHS, its patients and staff,” concluded Mr Prentis.

UNISON is the UK's largest healthcare trade union - over 400,000 people who work in the NHS and for private contractors providing NHS services are members.

Health membership in UNISON is comprised of nurses, student nurses, midwives, health visitors, healthcare assistants, paramedics, cleaners, porters, catering staff, medical secretaries, clerical and admin staff, scientific and technical staff and more.

* Further information on UNISON and healthcare: http://www.unison.org.uk/healthcare/

[Ekk/3]

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