The new pay settlement in the health service has denied 615,000 NHS staff a 1% pay rise this year. They will receive their usual annual increments in 2014-15 but nothing else.
A further 550,000 staff will get a 1% rise for each of the next two years but as monthly additional payments alongside their salary.
This game of Tory divide and rule is estimated to save just £200 million from the NHS budget this year. Its real intention is to further attack the pay and conditions of NHS workers.
Because despite what the Coalition claims, there is plenty of money going around. Bankers’ bonuses worldwide are 29% higher than a year, with even larger increases in the City of London. The divide between rich and poor is reflected in the NHS itself.
A firm with a close advisor to the Tories has made £2.6 million from the health service in 10 months by filling vacancies in the new Clinical Commissioning Groups set up under the Health and Social Care Act. Tory MP Nadhim Zahawi has been a non-executive director of the recruitment firm SThree since 2008, and earns £2,917 a month for seven hours work. This is the man who last December said child benefit and tax credits should be taken away from families after they have two children.
The NHS is slowing being starved to death by combined process of cuts, reforms and privatisations.
More than a third of hospital trusts are predicting deficits at the end of this financial year. The net total forecast deficit of the 141 trusts is £373.1 million — a rapid deterioration from the £700 million net surplus last year.
Much of it is as a result of the end of “transitional support” from strategic health authorities, which were abolished under the new legislation. Many of these trusts would have been in a similar financial situation in 2012-13 without the bail-out funding they received to stabilise them; now that safety net has been removed.
Under the new system, clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) have been placed in charge of around £70 billion, representing more than two-thirds of the NHS budget. These GP-led bodies have been pushed to spend precious resources on private companies to advise them on buying care, drug purchasing and negotiating hospital contracts.
NHS England has just advertised for companies to compete for £5 billion of such work, placing a handful of private companies at the centre of the health system. Capita, G4S, Serco and the rest will be advising on the commissioning of services — of which they themselves are major providers.
All Trusts are now obliged to get “best value” contracts for all their services. Millions are being wasted on this tendering process.
All this at a time when NHS is being forced to making £20 billion efficiency savings.
And the meantime, clause 119 of the Care Bill (which has just past its final Parliamentary stage), will give the government sweeping powers to close and part-close hospitals without full local consultation. In London a third of Accident and Emergency departments are under threat.
We are now in the run-up to a general election and many Tory and Lib-Dem MPs in marginal constituencies will be under pressure over local hospitals and services. Labour’s Andy Burnham has promised to repeal the Health and Social Care Act. But will Labour reverse the cuts?
There is both and opportunity and a responsibility here to build a renewed community and labour movement campaigns; campaigns which can mobilise to defend hospitals before the government has a chance to close them down. Without such a campaign we cannot save the NHS.