Unions dismiss May’s NHS plan

Unions have criticised the government’s plan for the NHS, saying it fails to address the organisation’s crippling staffing shortage.

Prime Minister Theresa May today outlined the Tories’ long-term plan for the NHS, saying it would transform healthcare.

But unions disagreed, with GMB national officer Rachel Harrison saying: “The NHS has a staffing black hole of 100,000 people big – it’s the single biggest crisis facing our health service. So why on earth is there no mention of staffing issues in today’s long-awaited plan?

“The Conservatives are once again fail to understand of what makes the NHS tick. How does the government expect to deliver everything promised in the plan if there are no staff to deliver the services?”

UNISON head of health Sara Gorton said: “Finding the NHS more staff, and holding on to those it already has, is key to the success of the government’s plan.

“The plan is honest about the scale of the staffing challenge. But nothing will happen without more money to attract new recruits and train existing employees. The government must act now, or its plan will fall at the first hurdle.

“Repealing the despised Health and Social Care Act would spare the NHS from the costly and time-wasting need to compete against itself.

“The market-obsessed system created by the 2012 legislation has failed to tackle the huge health inequalities that exist across the country, and added to the pressures being felt in every part of the NHS.”

Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said: “This new cash is, in reality, putting in the funding that the government removed a decade ago. ‘Smoke and mirrors’ is the name of the game.

“The money that is now coming on stream is not enough to meet the ambitious targets to save the almost 500,000 lives outlined in the long term plan.

“The NHS is like a Rolls-Royce that needs constant care and attention – the Tories, since 2010, have neglected its annual maintenance. The NHS requires an immediate cash injection to meet increasing demand. That’s the grim reality.”

RCM chief executive and general secretary Gill Walton said: “It is very encouraging to see maternity front and centre of this plan. There is much in the plan to welcome such as the commitment to reduce health inequalities, the renewed commitment to the Maternity Transformation Plan, and the pledge of a job guarantee for midwives after they qualify.

“Also very welcome is the announcement of the first Chief Midwifery Officer. This is an ambitious plan and good leadership will be needed to implement it, in midwifery and in other health professions.

“However there is right now a gap between the ambitions for our maternity services and the reality on the ground. This plan adds yet more aspirations but we need to know how the Government will bridge this gap and give us the services they have promised.

“The issue of funding services also rears its head. There are some commitments in the plan to postnatal care yet this is an area that has long been underfunded. Key elements of the plan also talk about prevention of poor health such as reducing the numbers of people smoking. But we are seeing budgets for public health services such as smoking cessation cut.

“It is therefore vitally important that sufficient funding is made available and that we have the right numbers of midwives and other staff in place. It is not just about a shortage of midwives, but also a shortage of other health professionals which can impact on midwives.  The whole system has to be staffed adequately otherwise the system falls down.

“What is now important is seeing the details of how this will be translated for people where they live through local maternity plans. For example we would want to see how the plan’s commitments to improve perinatal mental health actually look when the services are delivered, such as ensuring every trust has a specialist perinatal mental health midwife.

“It is an ambitious plan and we look forward to working with the Government and other health organisations to make it a reality.”

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