Procurement and Cost Improvement in the NHS

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2014 Health Care Service Group Conference
1 January 2014

Conference is all too aware that the Coalition Government led by the Tories are ideologically committed to dismantling the NHS and selling it off to their friends in the private healthcare sector. Cameron’s pre election promise that there would be no top down reorganisation of the NHS was mere hypocrisy. Their underfunding of the NHS over the past three and half years has led to NHS trusts having to make substantial cuts to staffing and services – or cost improvements as most like to call them. It is important that UNISON is fully involved in working with Trusts to ensure that our members’ interests are protected and that the highest standards of patient care are assured.

The introduction of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 threatens the very fabric of our NHS, setting the framework for massive privatisation. There has been no electoral mandate given to the Coalition Government to dismantle the NHS. Despite mounting opposition and the fears expressed loudly by staff, unions and health commentators, the government pressed ahead. These changes were not directed by a desire to make life better for patients. The real winners will be the private health companies who stand ready to move in and take over NHS services. These so called reforms would fundamentally alter the NHS as we know it.

In the Northern region we have seen the private sector taking over GP services in Newcastle. Trusts across the country are being forced to make massive savings and are in danger of going bankrupt. Research has found that private companies perform worse, yet are more expensive than publicly provided services. The retinal screening service in Newcastle Hospitals and Northumbria Healthcare Trust has gone to a private healthcare provider in the South West who have failed to provide an adequate service.

For leading activists in the NHS, we are facing unprecedented times. Internal change and the push to transformation of the delivery of public services is extremely challenging for UNISON negotiators and activists. Commissioning and procurement is increasingly important for delivery of local services. The integration of services is growing. The private sector is growing in the healthcare market. Commissioning decisions by CCGs are causing provider Trusts to make massive cost savings which affect our members and will have a detrimental effect on patient care. In the Northern Region we are working with a number of Trusts to ensure that there are no redundancies, A4C terms and conditions are maintained and therefore that patient care is assured. This does not mean that we agree with all decisions, but it does mean that we can assure our members’ future against a background of Government imposed cuts.

To support leading negotiators and activists it is vital that UNISON provides dedicated skills training at local level. UNISON is congratulated for the excellent briefing documents that it has produced, but these need to be included with local training provision.

Conference therefore calls upon the Health Service Group Executive to:

1)update the procurement guide to branches;

2)work with regions to roll out local training on how to influence procurement and commissioning decisions;

3)ensure that national and regional resources are focussed on supporting Branches to deal with the cost improvement plans, providing bespoke training where necessary;

4)work with our local government colleagues to coordinate action on procurement decisions made by local councils that affect our health members.

5)encourage branches, where possible to work in partnership with trusts to develop Procurement protocols to ensure the best outcomes for our members.