How long can the NHS go on like this, Mr Cameron?

David Cameron campaigned on a personal commitment to the NHS, however the coalition government is not living up to its promises to protect its budget.


David Cameron tried to deal with his party’s tarnished image on health during the election, by making the claim directly to the public in his much mocked billboard campaign: “I will cut the deficit not the NHS.”

Following Andrew Lansley’s reform bill the Tories were already on shaky ground when it came to the NHS, but reports today have cast further doubt over the Tory promise to protect the NHS.

The Guardian quotes Dr Mark Porter, chairman of the British Medical Association, as saying:

“The examples [of cuts] are becoming more and more widespread.

“The national picture is that every primary care trust is taking steps to reduce access to whole swaths of healthcare, while the government says everything is fine and that its organisational changes to the NHS are what matter.”

The Guardian also reports on research carried out by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) which identified 40,000 jobs that have gone or are due to go in the near future as, right across the UK, PCTs, hospitals and other NHS organisations have to adjust to flat or reduced budgets.

The RCN have claimed that more than half of the job losses are nurses, doctors and midwives rather than administrative staff. The Guardian reported:

“In a study of almost 10,000 job losses at 21 trusts, the majority (54%) turned out to be frontline clinical staff, the nurses’ union said.

That revelation, and the disappearance of NHS services, expose coalition pledges to be protecting NHS frontline patient care and treatment as a myth, the RCN said.

“‘Clinical staff are the lifeblood of the NHS and it is haemorrhaging at an alarming rate. Cutting thousands of frontline doctors and nurses could have a catastrophic impact on patient safety and care,’ said Dr Peter Carter, the RCN’s chief executive and general secretary.”

The Guardian have outlined the areas of care that are becoming the first casualties of the NHS cuts here, including mental health and maternity services.

Left Foot Forward reported last year on the warning signs that showed the so-called ring-fencing of the NHS might mean little in reality. As flagged up by Will Straw, spending power was likely to fall in real terms in health following inflation rises, which in turn would lead to frontline job losses. With revised inflationary forecasts this has resulted in a £1 billion cut in real terms.

As Trevor Cheeseman pointed out here back in June, there was also the issue of VAT rises and cuts to other services which would have knock on effects:

“The Institute for Fiscal Studies is forecasting social services budget cuts of one-third on average by 2014/15. The impact on the NHS will be stark, with increased stays of older people in hospitals and delays in discharges.”

On top of all this of course we have estimates that Lansley’s NHS reforms will cost £3 billion in themselves. The planned massive structural changes contained in Lansley’s bill come at a time when the efficiency savings the service is supposed to make are already proving impossible without compromising care.

Far from re-investing in the frontline of healthcare the Tories have so far stripped it away.

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by becoming a Left Foot Forward Supporter today.