The costs of paying for the restructuring of the NHS as a result of the government’s healthcare reforms would more than cover the projected loss of 6000 nursing jobs, Labour leader Ed Miliband will claim today.
The claim comes as opposition to the impending heathcare legislation intensifies ahead of its scheduled return to the House of Lords on Wednesday.
Figures from the NHS Information Centre, obtained by Labour, show that the number of NHS nurses has now fallen by 3500 since the general election in May 2010, with the total number projected to reach at least 6000 by the end of this parliament.
The funds set aside to pay for the costs of implementing the impending legislation would more than cover all these posts, says Mr Milliband, repeating his call for the bill to be scrapped.
"We are calling for the bill to be scrapped, and for some of the money set aside to fund this reorganisation to instead be made available to the NHS to protect the thousands of nursing posts either already cut or set to be cut in the coming years,” Mr Miliband is expected to say.
Last year, the government set aside nearly £1.8bn to pay for the costs of implementing the legislation. Labour wants £750m of that cash to be used to replace the 3500 nurses’ posts that have already gone, and to stave off the further projected job losses.
Dr Peter Carter, Chief Executive & General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said that the RCN had already identified over 48,000 NHS posts at risk in England alone.
“These figures are further evidence, if it were needed, that the extensive NHS reorganisation set out in the Health and Social Care Bill is a costly distraction from the major challenges faced by the NHS. The turmoil of stopping the bill is outweighed by the turmoil of allowing it to continue, and we would urge peers to vote against the Bill when it is put before them again this week," he said.
Meanwhile, in its latest briefing to peers today, the BMA concedes that the government has gone some way to try and address some of the association’s concerns, but the Bill remains fundamentally flawed and should be withdrawn, it says.
Dr Hamish Meldrum, Chairman of BMA Council, said: "We recognise that some of the amendments recently set down by the government suggest modest improvements in some areas, such as integration, training and education and giving patients a greater say in their health care.
But these do little to address the issues which continue to cause us great concern, for example: an over reliance on ‘market forces’ remains at the core of the Bill, there is excessive control over commissioning groups, plans for incentives for commissioning are ill-thought through, and proposals to give hospitals more scope to generate income from private patients pose serious risks.”
He added: “The government has had to make so many amendments to remedy the initial flaws in the legislation and has brought in so many checks and balances that the level of complexity and bureaucracy in the new NHS will be huge. It would be better to withdraw the Bill altogether and come up with a new plan – one that will actually improve care and make the NHS more efficient.”
The Lords must take heed of the views of professional bodies representing most clinical staff in the NHS, “before it is too late,” he warned.