No frontline cuts? Really, Mr Cameron?

In a week of u-turns for the better, there was further evidence today of a u-turn for the worse - the breaking of David Cameron's pre-election pledge that there would be no frontline cuts to public services.

In a week of u-turns for the better, over the forests sell-off and housing benefit cut, further evidence today of a u-turn for the worse – the breaking of David Cameron’s pre-election pledge that there would be no frontline cuts to public services. In an interview with Andrew Marr on May 2nd last year, just days before the election, the Tory leader said:

“We’ve said which departments we will protect, and that’s the NHS, which for me and for many families in this country absolutely comes first, and it’s vitally important people know that…

“What I can tell you is any cabinet minister if I win the election, if we win the election, who comes to me and says here are my plans and they involve frontline reductions they will be sent straight back to their department to go away and think again.”

Watch it:

Yet now it has emerged that thousands of frontline NHS workers are to be sacked, with today’s Guardian reporting:

“St George’s hospital in south London announced that it was shedding 500 personnel, including nurses and – unusually – consultants, its most senior doctors. It is also closing three wards, with the loss of about 100 beds, and reducing the number of women allowed to give birth there from 4,200 to 3,000, as part of an attempt to save £55m in 2011-12…

“Meanwhile Kingston hospital in southwest London announced that it would be losing 486 staff, almost 20% of its total workforce, over the next five years. In an email to staff, its chief executive, Kate Grimes, said two key government health policies had forced the decision and warned that its action would soon be repeated by others.

“The job losses in the capital take the total of NHS jobs earmarked to disappear since 1 January to at least 3,053, with another 360 personnel put at risk of redundancy, according to research by the RCN…”

That research, by the Royal College of Nursing, shows that, as hospitals in England struggle to cope with the coalition’s £20 billion ‘efficiency drive’:

• Ashford and St Peter’s hospitals in Middlesex and Surrey are axing 440 posts;

• North Lincolnshire and Goole NHS foundation trust is also axing 440 posts;

• Southend University hospital NHS foundation trust is losing 400 jobs and closing six wards;

• In Croydon, the NHS trust is scrapping 12 elective surgery beds at its local hospital;

• NHS Oldham has closed a 28-bed community recovery unit;

• Barts is axing 630 jobs – including 250 nurses.

As Left Foot Forwad first revealed in October, the NHS faces a real terms spending cut:

“Table 2.2 of the June Budget clearly shows that the departmental expenditure limit for current spending in the Department of Health would be £101.5 billion. But Table 1 of today’s Comprehensive Spending Review sets out that the same number is £98.7 billion.

“Health spending will rise to £109.8 billion by 2014-15. In real terms, the rise from the new baseline delivers a 1.3 per cent rise. But compared to the baseline set out just four months ago, the rise turns into a cut of 1.5 per cent.

“What has happened to the missing £3 billion this year? If these are the the administrative savings, why have they not been reinvested in the NHS?”

Mr Cameron, in his infamous airbrushed poster, claimed:

“I’ll cut the deficit, not the NHS.”

On that latter point, the numbers, and the evidence, appear to suggest otherwise.

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