NHS in Crisis

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2006 Health Care Service Group Conference
24 April 2006

Conference notes with deep concern the financial crisis faced by many NHS Trusts across England.

In recent weeks there have been news reports daily of Hospital and Primary Care Trusts forced to close departments, freeze recruitment and discontinue the use of agency staff. In addition Trusts are also resorting to redundancy measures to save money. The accumulated figure as of 20 April is 13,000 job redundancies with many thousand more expected. The debt faced by the NHS is even more alarming given the high level of investment made to bring UK spending on health up to the European average.

On 23 April 2006, Patricia Hewitt is proclaimed that the NHS has delivered care to patients over the coldest winter on record. However the Secretary of State fails to recognise that the NHS will be unable to respond in the future as departments and staff are cut to the bone.

The DoH has been quick to try to shift the blame for the debt to local hospital management and NHS pay. UNISON has been very clear that recent government policy to introduce outsourcing of all supply services, Payment by Results and the Tariff, Patient Choice, and increasing private provision with preferential funding arrangements for Independent Sector Treatment Centres, have all been major contributors to NHS financial instability.

The market style reforms have brought into sharp focus the costs of maintaining high Private Finance Initiative charges. This plus the continued, almost frantic pace of reform in the NHS is the cause of the crises now emerging across the NHS.

Conference calls on the Service Group Executive to take urgent steps to work in collaboration with UNISON Labour Link, Positively Public, GPF, Regions, Branches, patient groups, voluntary organisations and other trade unions to mount a major campaign to fight back on the reforms that are fragmenting the NHS and to organise and mobilise to fight to save our members jobs.

The reforms are so wide and varied and impacting differently across a plethora of employment settings that a campaign will need to provide a menu of options and campaigning activities.

However, the focus on Trust debt and job redundancies must be at the heart of the campaign. In addition, job cuts, redundancies and ward closures will impact on patient care. UNISON’s campaign must be implemented at every level of the organisation to ensure maximum mobilisation across our national, regional and branch structures.

Conference therefore calls on the Service Group Executive to take a strategic and co-ordinating approach identifying at all levels the means to achieve a collaborative wide ranging campaign. This must include:

(i) National Activity:

·Provide advice, information and campaigning materials to Regions and Branches.

·Work with Labour Link to influence Labour MP’ and back bench committees and take our campaign into Labour Conference and TUC conference.

·Maximise UNISON’s profile via media opportunities

·Develop strategies for regions and branches to orchestrate a range of local lunch time demonstrations.

·Provide advice and information and support on lawful industrial action

·Work with Positively Public to develop our alternative to the current health reform agenda, working with the non marketised countries of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales to develop the alternative policies.

·Arrange national and regional seminars similar to the breakfast seminar held earlier this year

·Liaise closely with Regions to monitor activity and adapt the campaign where necessary

(ii) Regional Activity:

·Regional Health Committees will prioritise the campaign and oversee the implementation and monitor outcomes

·Assist with organising local demonstrations across the region

·Target constituency MP’s to lobbying and engaging in local campaigns

·Assist branches in developing local organisation and recruitment opportunities aligned with campaigns.

·work closely with the national press office to maximise on media opportunities

·provide advice and information on lawful industrial action

(iii) Branch Activity:

·Work to strengthen local organisation and develop a consensus within the branch on local campaigns/demonstrations and where appropriate industrial action.

·Strong branches to assist weaker neighbouring branches to campaign and carry out recruitment activities and local demonstrations

·Collaborate with Regional Health Committees and RO’s to co-ordinate with regional activities

·Liaise with Regional contacts on progress of campaign.