“The NHS is one of the country’s most treasured institutions. But its future is under serious threat.” That is the warning of more than 40 signatories – including Unite’s Len McCluskey and Hollywood actor Michael Sheen – to a letter published in today’s Guardian to mark the launch of the People’s Convention for the NHS.
The letter, signed by Unite’s general secretary Len McCluskey, film director Ken Loach, the TUC’s Frances O’Grady and leading doctors including Dr Jacky Davis and Dr Wrigley comes on the day that the Financial Times reports that the NHS black hole is deeper than feared after a slump in productivity over the last three years.
The research carried out by the independent Health Foundation shows that the Coalition’s costly £3bn NHS shake-up has caused productivity to plummet from 2012 as the NHS prepared for the biggest restructure in its history.
It all lead Anita Charlesworth, Health Foundation’s chief economist to warn, “The NHS will need an immediate injection of cash to stabilise the system.”
Five years of Coalition mis-management has left the NHS buckling under the twin strains of a costly top-down reorganisation and an unprecedented funding squeeze. Costs have been spiralling out of control in recent years after hospitals found themselves under intense pressure to increase staff numbers following the 2013 Staffordshire Hospital care scandal.
But serious staff shortages caused in part by a cut in nurse training places has led many hospitals to pay above the odds for agency staff to fill the gaps. With foundation trusts alone spending a staggering £1.396bn on agency nurses in 2014.
Broadest coalition possible
Signatories to the letter say, “There have been many local campaigns established to defend services threatened with privatisation or closure. But there must be a response on a national level. Starting last month with the relaunch of the People’s March for the NHS, there have been a series of events that will culminate in a People’s Convention for the NHS on April 11.
“The aim is to unite the broadest coalition possible, bringing together health workers, campaign groups, trade unions, health activists, pensioners groups and others with one common aim – to save our NHS.”
The convention is being organised around five key demands. These are 1) repeal the Health and Social Care Act to halt and roll back the privatisation of the NHS. No to TTIP. 2) End the NHS funding freeze: increase spending to meet growing need for healthcare. 3) No more unsafe cuts and closures to save money. 4) Don’t let PFI costs kill off local services – renegotiate on the basis of fair value. 5) A fair deal and fair pay for NHS staff.
Speaking ahead of Saturday’s event Len McCluskey, Unite general secretary and signatory to the letter, said, “David Cameron’s coalition government has failed the NHS on every level. We have hospitals in meltdown with over half of NHS trusts forecasting deficits, totalling a staggering £800m by the end of the year. Waiting times are at their highest levels since the 1990s. Today we say that there must be a response on a national level to protect the NHS for future generations.”
Sign up to here to join the People’s Convention for the NHS, Saturday April 11, London 11 am to 4.30 pm.