Health minister Andrew Lansley was heckled and branded a liar by delegates at the congress of the Royal College of Nursing on 14 May.
His appearance came on the same day that an RCN survey showed 26,000 nursing posts have been cut in the past two years and a further 61,000 posts are at risk.
At the same time there are real term pay cuts, attacks on sickness absence and holiday entitlement, not to mention the dismantling of 63 years of free state-run healthcare.
The Department of Health has said £20 billion cuts can be made by trimming management and by shifting care out of hospitals and into the community.
But NHS managers are being sacked from the now defunct Primary Care Trusts with good redundancy packages, and then finding work in the newly formed clinical commissioning groups! The severance pay for these bureaucrats will cost the NHS £56.5 million.
Despite evidence that hospitals are discharging patients earlier from hospital, there has been less than a 1% increase in community nursing over the last decade. The early discharges are less to do with better clinical judgement and more a question of bed pressure. Some trusts, like South London Healthcare NHS Trust, are in the middle of a four year process to cut almost a quarter of their clinical posts.
The move to community care takes on a more sinister aspect with the world of Telehealth.
Telehealth is supposed to be the magic pill which will make huge savings for the NHS and the key to making community services work.
Armed with a few bits of diagnostic technology, some mobile phone apps and the number for a call centre, patients will be allowed to return home and treat themselves.
The Department of Health believes Telehealth could reduce Accident and Emergency admissions by 15%, emergency admissions by 20%, elective admissions by 14%, and bed days by 14%.
To some extent these technologies are to be welcomed — they could lead to a greater democratisation of healthcare. However the technology will also be used by the bosses as a weapon of class struggle.
According to Eoin Clarke’s Green Benches blog, Serco, which recently won a £140 million contract to run community services in Suffolk, has told shareholders of their plans to offshore 40% of their Telehealth jobs to India.
Mobilise to save the NHS
Protest against Care UK
Private profiteers in the NHS
Wednesday 30 May, 5-6.30pm
St Vincent’s House, 21 Great Winchester Street, EC2N 2JA