Nurses and midwives want health changes scrapped

19 Jan 12
Unions representing nurses and midwives have called on the government to ditch the Health and Social Care Bill

By Nick Mann | 19 January 2012

Unions representing nurses and midwives have called on the government to ditch the Health and Social Care Bill.

Nurses Shutterstock

Both the Royal College of Nursing and Royal College of Midwives have previously expressed concerns over the NHS changes in the Bill, but today is the first time they have stated their outright opposition to the legislative proposals for the health service in England.

In a statement, the RCN said it had taken the decision because it believed the Bill would no longer achieve the government’s original proposals. It added that recent announcements represented a ‘serious threat’ to the NHS. In particular, it was concerned by reports that the health secretary planned to significantly increase the current 2% cap on income that can be raised from treating private patients in foundation hospitals.

RCN chief executive and general secretary Dr Peter Carter said: ‘Opposing this Bill is not a decision we have taken lightly. We have worked hard on behalf of all our members to influence the decisions that have been taken as the Bill has gone through Parliament.

‘However, it is now clear that these “reforms” are forging ahead on the ground without the concerns of nurses and other clinicians being heeded.’

Carter’s objections were echoed by Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the RCM, who said the reforms should be stopped ‘in their entirety’.

She added: ‘The government has failed to present sufficient evidence that its proposals are necessary. They have failed to present evidence that the upheaval will result in an improvement in services to the people of England. And they have failed to answer the concerns of the people who fear for the future of the NHS under these plans.

‘Breaking up what we have, embracing the private sector, and injecting full-blown competition and market forces is not what the NHS needs or what health professionals and patients want,’ she added.

A spokesman for the Department of Health said the government was disappointed by the unions’ position.

‘The RCN has conflated the Health and Social Care Bill with issues about the need for the NHS to spend its money more efficiently. The Bill is needed to empower doctors, nurses, and other frontline health care workers across the NHS to take charge of improving care,’ he said.

The unions’ hardened stance comes after the British Medical Association yesterday decided to reject the government’s proposed changes to the NHS pension scheme, raising the potential of the first industrial action by doctors since 1975.

The decision by the union’s council came after a survey of its 130,000 members revealed 84% of respondents opposed the latest deal and 63% said they would be prepared to take industrial action over the issue.

Detailed plans on taking industrial action will now be worked up ahead of an emergency meeting of the BMA council on February 25 where a decision will made on options for a strike ballot unless there is ‘significant’ change in the government’s position.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, chair of the BMA council, said: ‘Industrial action remains a last resort and the government must urgently reconsider its damaging plans. The action we are considering is unprecedented in recent decades. This demonstrates the current level of discontent among NHS staff.’

Earlier this month, Unite, which represents 100,000 NHS workers, unanimouslyrejected the government’s offer on NHS pension reform. However, members of Unison’s health group have endorsed the latest offer on the table.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said the pensions offer made by the government to NHS unions before Christmas was the ‘best deal available’.

‘The reforms to public service pensions will ensure that NHS pensions remain amongst the very best. The government has made clear that this is our final position on the main elements of scheme design – it is a fair and affordable deal for both staff and the taxpayer.’


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