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Budget may lead to 'slash and burn' cuts for NHS

Nurse and GP pay capped at 1% for two years after 2011

OnMedica Staff

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Union leaders have warned that the chancellor's budget could result in "slash and burn" cuts for the NHS.

Yesterday Chancellor Alistair Darling said the NHS would be required to make £4.35b savings which would need to be delivered from 2011.

Mr Darling said the savings would be made through various measures including £2.7bn in the care of those with long-term conditions, with greater emphasis placed on self-care and integrated community services to reduce emergency admissions levels.

Some £1.5bn saving would be made via "more effective commissioning" including cutting "unncessary" referrals and prescribing, and some £100m would be saved by taking a "new approach" to the National Programme for IT.

Significantly, public sector pay deals will be capped at a 1% maximum limit for two years after 2011.

Health Secretary Andy Burnham said: "By making tough efficiency savings, this will mean we can continue to increase real terms resources available for patient care year by year."

But Janet Davies, the Royal College of Nursing's executive director of nursing and service delivery warned against short-term "slash and burn" cuts saying it would compromise patient care and lead to a loss of skilled staff and valued services.

And Dave Prentis, General Secretary of UNISON said the budget's requirements would lead to the cutting of non front-line jobs which could compromise patient safety.

"Not all jobs are front-line but they are essential. Just where does the Chancellor think the axe should fall?" he asked.

"We saw what happened when hospital cleaners were cut, with dirty hospitals and the rise in MRSA and C difficile. Cutting cleaning staff has cost not only lives, but billions of pounds in expensive drugs, longer hospital stays and in treating on-going health problems.

"Should we cut porters and leave patients waiting for hours to be taken for urgent tests, or pharmacy-opening hours so patients have to wait till the morning to get their drugs?"

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