Health and social care has suffered the ‘most austere’ decade ever

UNISON delegates agree: we can’t have integration ‘on the cheap’

photograph of Carol Sewell

UNISON delegates discussed the crisis across the NHS and social care services in a number of motions at the union’s national delegate conference in Brighton

And they called on the union to ask the TUC to call a national demonstration in defence of the NHS.

The NEC’s Carol Sewell (above) told the conference that “this has been the most austere decade the sector has ever experienced.

“Every aspect of health and social care is at breaking point. And the government consistently refuses to do anything about it.”

Jane Boswell of Yorkshire and Humberside said: “This is a huge national scandal, entirely the result of successive Tory governments slashing the funding of health and social care in the name of austerity.”

Speaker after speaker voiced concern for the “vulnerable members of society” who are suffering because of cuts and the privatisation of services.

One delegate noted that the government’s sustainability and transformation plans (STPs) in England, which include improved integration of services, involved “integrating one chronically underfunded service with another chronically underfunded service” and was a recipe for disaster.

Another observed that “sustainability is a code for cuts, transformation code for privatisation.”

The NEC’s Jane Carolan said: “We have supported integration, but it’s not unconditional. We can’t have integration on the cheap. We need real and continued growth and investment.

“The largely privatised model of social care has been undermining standards of care and workforce terms and conditions,” she added. “It’s not fit for purpose and can’t be improved.”

Conference confirmed the union’s support for the principle of integrating health and social care, but warned against the government using integration as a “smokescreen” for cuts and privatisation.

It called for a campaign to highlight the government’s underfunding of both the NHS and social care, and the impact of that on service users and the predominantly low-paid female workforce.

The union will also highlight the case for the universal provision of social care on the basis of need, not profit, by the public sector.

“If the government is serious about any of this, it must get the funding right and start to value the staff,” said Carol Sewell.