Pre-election promises made by the Tories to protect the NHS from the devastating cuts being made to public services, have recently been exposed as farcical. The coalition government’s proposed reform threatens to completely remove the NHS from its founding principles of free comprehensive care based on the population’s needs, and is set to open the door even wider to private profit-making companies. Meanwhile, the imposed ‘productivity targets’ and ‘efficiency savings’ (£20 billion to be squeezed out over 4 years) are beginning to bite.
Cuts to frontline staff, ward closures and diminished services are now a serious concern across the whole spectrum of health care services. Barts and the London hospital made the headlines last week with their plans to reduce nursing staff on the wards, cutting 10% of nurses. 630 jobs are estimated to be lost overall. London Ambulance service has also just announced their plans to cut 890 jobs, including 560 frontline workers.
The pressure on frontline staff is, as always, keenly felt in maternity care where the shortage of midwives is a chronic problem. And nowhere have the Tories more unashamedly reneged on their promises. Their pre-election promise to increase the number of midwives by 3000 was swiftly dumped by the coalition government. UK maternity wards are now at crisis point, and fears over the stillbirth and maternal death rates continue to make headlines. Despite this midwifery services are being pared back and training budgets disappearing. On top of this CEMACE, a body that investigates and reports on all deaths related to childbirth to improve the quality of maternity care, has just been scrapped.
This government’s agenda of cuts is set to cause irreparable damage to our NHS and must be resisted. The Royal College of Nurses voted 99% in favour of a vote of no confidence in health secretary Andrew Landsley, and the coalition have since announced a ‘pause’ in the program of reform. This is a purely cynical attempt to soften the blow, and plans are going full steam ahead as the NHS chief of staff has himself admitted. Health workers and users of the NHS have been joining forces to fight for the NHS in their local areas and various groups will be attending a demonstration on the 17th May.