- 2008 National Delegate Conference
- 25 February 2008
- Carried as Amended
As the National Health Service prepares to celebrate its 60th birthday in July 2008, conference welcomes the fact that its founding principles remain substantially intact. Despite government policies designed to drive more and more of the health service into private hands, the service is still largely publicly controlled, free at the point of need and funded by direct taxation.
The NHS continues to represent the fairest and most efficient way to deliver health services in this country, providing certainty and peace of mind to millions.
Conference acknowledges that the extra investment in the health service and the commitment and hard work of NHS staff have allowed the NHS to make many improvements in recent years. However conference is appalled at the continuing squandering of public money in pursuit of discredited government policies such as PFI and obligatory offering of private alternatives which have prevented the NHS from using these extra resources as effectively as they could have, and which were partly responsible for the financial instability in the NHS over the past couple of years. It is essential that the NHS continues to improve if it is to remain a sustainable entity for future generations in the 21st century.
Conference notes that the government has still not learned the lesson that privatisation and the health service do not mix. The patient choice agenda, driven by the Payment by Results system and the desire to promote a diversity of healthcare providers including Independent Sector Treatment Centres (ISTCs), has brought about instability for those that use and work in the health service.
UNISON further notes junior health minister Lord Darzi’s support for privatisation and in particular the proposal in his report for the development of polyclinics to replace GP’s surgeries. Polyclinics would be much more viable for take over by the big healthcare multinationals at the expense of patient access and the integrity of the NHS. Conference notes with concern that the Health Secretary Alan Johnson is already promoting the increased role of the private sector in primary care.
UNISON’s campaign has helped bring about some important changes from the Government in the past year, including:
1)renewed consultation and partnership working between the Government and the NHS unions through the Social Partnership Forum;
2)an end to the punitive measures of the Resource Accounting and Budgeting system that effectively punished overspending trusts twice;
3)the withdrawal of proposals to outsource the NHS Prescription Pricing Division; and
4)a significant scaling back of the ISTC programme, with a number of individual projects scrapped and plans for a further wave of centrally-imposed schemes abandoned;
However, the government’s relentless drive towards privatisation continues in other ways, including:
i)the commissioning of primary medical services from corporate for-profit providers through Alternative Provider Medical Services contracts;
ii)the implementation of “Free Choice” from 1 April 2008;
iii)proposals by Lord Darzi (supported by the Secretary of State for Health and the Prime Minister) for the introduction of personal budgets in the NHS;
iv)the outsourcing of commissioning to coporate for profit providers under the Framework for Procuring External Support for Commissioning;
v)the continued use of the Private Finance Initiative and Local Improvement Finance Trusts for capital projects.
However Conference condemns the fact that despite fine words from the new Health secretary that there would be no major structural reorganisations, the entire primary care sector has yet again divided into purchasing and providing arms, thus paving the way for wholesale privatisation of direct patient care.
Conference notes that in December 2007 action by the European Commission on cross-border health services was only staved off by pressure from UNISON, the European Public Service Union (EPSU), and a minority of Labour Link MPs supporting an Early Day Motion from Jon Trickett MP. This initiative is likely to resurface, however, and if successful could force the NHS to pay private health providers abroad for non-emergency treatment of UK citizens. Conference believes that such a move would undermine the fundamental principles of the NHS, over-rule clinical priorities and worsen health inequalities.
Conference recognises that as a result of political devolution, the UK is effectively home to four different health services. Conference welcomes the different approaches to reform that have been adopted in the devolved countries, particularly the reintegration of healthcare providers and purchasers in Scotland, and the recent decision in Wales to bring hospital cleaning back in-house. Conference resolves to campaign to spread instances of good practice such as this from divided administrations across the rest of the UK and resist any attempts on the part of the UK government to undermine the positive changes made by devolved administrations.
Conference condemns New Labour’s continuation and in fact acceleration of attacks on the NHS begun by the previous Conservative government. It is now clear that the NHS is not safe under either the Tories or New Labour. The government’s policies on the NHS have led to the grotesque spectacle of Tories in many areas posing as defenders of the health service, the worst example being in Bexley where local Tories along with Boris Johnson have led protests and demonstrations against the cuts to Queen Mary’s hospital.
Conference condemns New Labour’s continuation and in fact acceleration of attacks on the NHS begun by the previous Conservative government. It is now clear that the NHS is not safe under either the Tories or New Labour. The government’s policies on the NHS have led to the grotesque spectacle of Tories in ma