Health members condemned the chronic underfunding of the NHS under successive Tory governments, when they debated the issue on the last day of conference in Brighton today.
They agreed that the consequences were dire for both patients and NHS staff, who were unable to deliver the level of care they wanted to.
Adopting a motion on The funding crisis and its impact on the workforce, conference noted that successive Westminster governments have “failed miserably” to produce a funding settlement that works for the NHS – either directly for England or via the Barnett formula in the devolved nations.
Introducing the motion, George Barron, vice-chair of the health service group executive, accused “hapless” health secretary Jeremy Hunt of failing to see that the NHS was in crisis.
Mr Barron said evidence of the crisis could be seen in the numbers of people waiting in hospital corridors because there were no beds; ambulances delayed at hospitals because patients could not be admitted; people unable to get GP appointments; growing waiting times in A&E; and the fact that hospitals were not being properly cleaned because there were not enough domestics.
“It is not our members’ fault,” he said. “Every day, our members are working their damn socks off. To see [criticism] in the press day after day must depress many of them.
“NHS bodies keep saying they need more money. The Tory government gives them half of the amount.
“I think it’s a plan from the Tories to discredit the NHS, before moving towards privatisation, with multinational companies from America waiting to move in. It’s absolutely scandalous.”
Moving a motion on Tory cuts, Lynn Booth from the East Midlands drew attention to the findings of the Care Quality Commission Inspectorate report of autumn 2017, including:
- massive staff shortages, with vacancy rates in the NHS rising by 16% between 2015 and 2017;
- hospital bed shortages running to the thousands;
- more people not getting support for their social care needs and a 20% increase in people detained under the Mental Health Act.
“What this means for members is job losses, reorganisation changes, downbanding, an increase in workload, an increase in stress and anxiety, reduced work-life balance and low morale,” Ms Booth said.
She urged the union to continue to build high-profile campaigns, such as the One Team campaign and Safe Staffing Levels campaign.
“It’s important that our members feel that their union is supporting them every step of the way, and that the public is made aware of what is happening in the NHS.”
Conference also agreed to:
- continue to demand that the NHS receives the level of funding needed to deliver a comprehensive, safe and high-quality service;
- campaign for safe staffing levels to be enshrined in all countries of the UK;
- repeat UNISON’s warnings to providers that any attempts to use lack of funding as an excuse for privatisation or to alter the pay terms and conditions of the workforce would be resisted;
- continue taking its campaigns into the TUC for wider support;
- assist branches and regions in their actions in defence of the NHS.