999 NHS campaign graphic

220 operations cancelled a day with less than 24 hours notice during the first three months of 2013.

The NHS is under threat from privatisation and cuts.

  • The Tory health act has pushed the profit motive to the heart of the English NHS.
  • Key treatments are being restricted, services cut and jobs lost, resulting in increased waiting times, delays and staff shortages on our wards.
  • Restricted funding settlements are also affecting Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Our NHS remains the fairest and most cost-effective health service in the world.

Don’t let the Tories ruin it.


General secretary Dave Prentis with a London Ambulance service emergency call handler

UNISON general secretary shows support for London Ambulance Service members

‘We need a package that works for everyone,’ general secretary tells staff

Why patients are supporting the NHS strike on Monday

NHS workers in England will be striking for the second time on Monday and as there was last month, when they took strike action over pay for the first time in 32 years, there will undoubtedly be strong support for them amongst patients

UNISON tells TUC delegates: ‘We must challenge the dogma that the market knows best’

UNISON delegates speak at range of TUC motions condemning effects of government policy across public services

UNISON president tells Jarrow marchers – we can save the NHS

“We can save our NHS, but the time to act is now,” UNISON president Lucia McKeever told a rally in Nottingham during the People’s March for the NHS

Mothers march for the NHS

Campaigners set off from Jarrow to make 999 call for the NHS to Parliament – find out how you can join in and support the marchers

The facts

An NHS England report warns that by 2020-21 the gap between the NHS budget and rising costs could reach £30bn.

Poor services

41% of people think the services provided by the NHS have got worse since David Cameron became Prime Minister, compared to just 11% who think services have got better. And 80% of conservative voters support a significant level of public sector provision for the NHS. (According to a Daily Mirror and ITV Daybreak poll in July 2013.)

Cancelled operations

More planned operations were cancelled in the first few months of this year than for any similar period in almost a decade, it has been revealed, as senior surgeons warn that the crisis in accident and emergency is cascading through the NHS.

More than 220 operations a day were cancelled with less than 24 hours’ notice during the first three months of 2013, official figures show. A similar scale of cancellations of elective surgery has not been seen since 2004-5. NHS England figures further reveal that the proportion of those patients not treated within 28 days of being turned away from operating tables has crept up to 5.6% – a four-year high.

The number of urgent operations cancelled every month has also doubled under the coalition, from 172 in August 2010 to 401 in April this year.


UNISON is highlighting and celebrating the amazing work performed 24/7 by the NHS and its staff. It treats more than 1.5m patients every single day; 14,000 babies are born each week and more than 9m procedures and interventions are performed each year. Every patient is seen on the basis of medical need – not on how much they can pay – and UNISON wants to keep it that way.

Dave Prentis, UNISON general secretary


Ambulances turned away from A&E

Labour has published figures showing a 24% increase in the number of ambulances being turned away from A&E departments that are full.

Labour said the number of “A&E diverts” in England – when ambulances are turned away from one A&E department with no space and sent to another hospital – rose from 287 in 2011-12 to 357 in 2012-13, an increase of 24%. In recent weeks, A&E departments that have had to turn ambulances away include Queen’s hospital in Romford, Whipps Cross in Waltham Forest, Princess Royal in Bromley, Lewisham Hospital, Northwick Park in Newham and King George in Ilford.

There is other evidence of A&E services under pressure, including a rise in the number of patients waiting more than four hours to be seen, a rise in the number of patients kept waiting in the back of an ambulance before being transferred to a ward, and a warning from A&E managers in the West Midlands about the safety of patients being put at risk.


As pressure on the service grows, even the Telegraph and Mail blast away at queues of ambulances stacked up outside bursting A&Es, with emergency admissions up by 35%. The loss of 4,000 nurses doesn’t look good. Public anger makes closure of A&E and maternity services impossible when beds are full to capacity. Patients waiting over six weeks for diagnostic tests are up by 88%.

Polly Toynbee, The Guardian 5 July 2013


The real cost of the health act

Almost half a billion pounds has been paid out to NHS staff made redundant as part of the government’s controversial health shakeup, leading to warnings that private companies are stepping in to fill the vacuum at the heart of the health service.

The government’s sweeping health act, the biggest single set of changes ever experienced by the NHS, replaced 170 organisations with 240 new ones, but resulted in the loss of 10,094 posts.

The National Audit Office (NAO) said the changes had cost £1.1bn to 31 March 2013, which was 15% more than expected.


Story from a UNISON member

Crisis in mental health care

From personal experience, I know only too well that all staff working in mental health are under enormous pressure.

“My son has mental health issues and is regularly sectioned under the Mental Health Act – often resulting in periods of hospitilisation.

My son was given “time out,” yet when he returned to the unit his bed was no longer available as there had been an influx of patients.

“On some of these occasions he’d only been out for 3-6 hours.

“There is a definite crisis and shortage of beds resulting in mental health patients being placed on elderly units/wards. This leaves both staff and patients at risk.

“My son’s medication was changed yet he was then placed on “home leave” due to bed shortages – he was left with no support or assessment.

“I don’t blame the staff: they work long hours and are dedicated to what they do. I blame the government and the cuts.”