Miliband goes on attack as fight to save the NHS stepped up

Ed Miliband will step up the war of words over the coalition's health reforms today, warning 6,000 nursing jobs are at risk unless the health bill is defeated.


Ed Miliband will step up the war of words over the coalition’s health reforms today, warning 6,000 nursing jobs are at risk unless the health bill is defeated.

The number of full-time qualified nurses fell 3,516 from 281,431 at the election to 277,915 in October, according to data from the NHS Information Centre, while the Royal College of Nursing has identified 5,000 nursing posts at risk, comprising both qualified nurses and healthcare assistants.

In a visit to the Princess Royal University Hospital in Orpington, Kent, this morning, he will say:

“In tough times and with little money around, the very first priority should be to protect the frontline NHS.

“Instead, we have a government blowing a vast amount of money on a damaging back-office reorganisation at the same time as it is cutting thousands of nurses, with more than 3,000 already gone. Labour’s priority is protecting the frontline, not a pointless and damaging reorganisation of the NHS.

“We’re calling for the bill to be scrapped, and for some of the money set aside to fund this reorganisation to instead be made available to the NHS to protect the thousands of nursing posts either already cut or set to be cut in the coming years.

“It is a clear and simple choice for the government: by stopping this damaging reorganisation we can fund 6,000 nurses.”

Miliband’s speech today follows his warning in yesterday’s Observer that there are “just three months to save the NHS”, describing the health and social care bill as a “misguided bid to impose a free-for-all market on our health service” that “must be stopped”.

Calling on “everyone who loves the NHS” to “fight to defeat this health bill”, he wrote:

“The NHS is getting worse on this government’s watch. More people have had to wait longer than 18 weeks for treatment. More people are experiencing long waits in A&E and there are more cancelled operations.

“That is the backdrop to the return of the government’s botched health bill to parliament next week. But it will do nothing to address these problems…

“We have already heard the arguments that will be played back against us by the government. None of them holds water. First, the government will say opposition to the bill from health professionals is just from trade-union “vested interests” – as David Cameron implied at prime minister’s questions recently. I disagree. That opposition includes hundreds of thousands of doctors, nurses, midwives and others.

“They are people who have devoted their lives to working in the NHS. They can see how the bill will undermine the guiding principles of our health service, and how this mangled reorganisation is already causing chaos that damages patient care. That is why the people who know the NHS best like this bill least…

“People at the heart of the NHS, staff and patients, would breathe a sigh of relief if the bill was dropped. Doctors and nurses could get back to their real job – of patient care.

“At the last election, David Cameron cited his commitment to the NHS to show he was a different type of Conservative. And he promised no more top-down reorganisations.

“But all he has done is betray his promises and let people down. It is not too late to stop this bill. We have three months to prevent great harm being done to the NHS. Now is the time for people of all parties and of none, the professions, the patients and now peers in the House of Lords to work together to try to stop this bill.”

As today’s Guardian’s editorial says:

No one, but no one, thinks that the health and social care bill returning to parliament this week is any good [see chart 1].

Chart 1:


Nurses and doctors have lined up to denounce it – even GPs, whom the legislation claims to put in charge. Professional resistance can be dismissed as “producer interest”, but not so the joint editorial published by three specialist periodicals, including the Health Service Journal.

The journal is generally supportive of exposing medicine to competition, yet it damns the particular market-based reforms on offer as “unnecessary, poorly conceived, badly communicated” and “a dangerous distraction”. Meanwhile, a committee dominated by coalition MPs has just concluded that the current upheaval “complicates” necessary cost-cutting, and displaces “truly effective” reforms…

It is hard to think of a starker failure in domestic government since the poll tax.

See also:

GP in Cameron’s constituency: “Nobody supports the NHS changes”Shamik Das, February 1st 2012

Sign my petition to drop Lansley’s monsterDr Kailash Chand OBE, November 24th 2011

Cameron’s fantasy list of NHS reform backersShamik Das, September 7th 2011

Doctors still fear coalition health reformsDaniel Elton, June 27th 2011

So who backs Lansley’s health reforms then?Dominic Browne, June 1st 2011

Doctors tell Lansley: “Stop this bill”Dominic Browne, March 15th 2011

So, Mr Cameron, who backs your NHS reforms? Erm…Shamik Das, February 2nd 2011

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