Union vows to stand against any smokescreen for health cuts

‘UNISON has never been anti-change, but will oppose things bad for services, bad for communities and bad for staff’

UNISON will stand against NHS reforms that are “a smokescreen for cuts, privatisation or attacks on pay, terms and conditions,” the union’s health conference declared in Liverpool.

“The NHS is always subject to change, and our members work in an environment that is constantly changing,” the union’s head of health Christina McAnea told delegates. “Our union has never been anti-change.

“But we will wholeheartedly oppose changes that are bad for services, bad for communities and bad for staff.”

Delegates outlined the dangers of the government’s so-called ‘service transformation’, which includes sustainability and transformation plans, or STPs, in England, a ‘10-year vision’ for health and social care in Northern Ireland, and further moves towards integrated health and social care in Scotland and Wales.

Conference said it is concerned that these changes are taking place “at a time of prolonged austerity, with the NHS experiencing the poorest funding settlement for a generation”.

Challenges to staff from such reforms include cuts to services, the threat of privatisation, mergers and the use of shared services, issues around harmonised terms and conditions in integrated workplaces and attempts to reduce skills and pay bands of staff.

UNISON is in favour of greater health and social care integration, but has a number of important “caveats”, including warning that it should not to be used as a cover for cuts or reduction in pay, and needs full engagement from patients and staff.