Thursday, September 03, 2009

Leaked NHS Jobs Cut Plan A Sick Joke

A leaked NHS jobs cut report has spread around the media like a rash. The government has been quick to put the patient out of its misery. NHS life is safe in their hands. But patients are getting in the way of political posturing.

The dear old NHS would need to slash its workforce by nearly 140,000 to achieve planned £20 billion savings by 2014, according to the consultants report, leaked to the Health Service Journal (HSJ).

Repeating the tired old argument, this would mean the NHS losing 10 per cent of its workforce. The hard-hitting McKinsey report makes clear cuts would hit front-line staff as well as administrators, coupled with a recruitment freeze and slashing medical school places.

Politically, the report fall-out has something for everyone. There's a nasty government drawing up secret plans to slash spending and jobs in the sacred cow and blowing out of the water claims the NHS is safe in their hands.

But on the other hand, the government has stamped on it in a full media maelstrom without a by-your-leave, to show a caring side. You pays your taxes and takes your choice in the "free" NHS.

There's something fishy about the whole thing. Government health minister, Mike O'Brien, was quick to jump on the caring bandwagon saying ministers have rejected the shocking proposals. Well, at least until after the election.

But the HSJ points out that although the department of health said the report was “purely advice and does not constitute government policy”, it bears the department’s logo and has been shared in secret among senior NHS managers.

The much-repeated mantra of willy-nilly jobs cuts is not the answer to NHS savings or a cure all for the NHS.

There is however an enormous amount of waste and some jobs should go to deliver better patient and medical care. But that should not detract from front-line services.

A start could be made on ridiculously well-paid management, the vast army of administrators, the billions of pounds squandered on a useless NHS computer, the millions wasted on useless public health campaigns - and the millions of pounds spent on IT and management consultants.

The Orange Party is starting to feel quite queasy. Health secretary Andy Burnham should come clean. Just how much cash was thrown at consultants to produce a report which comes up with the bleedin' obvious and the same old answers? And all that for ministers to reject the political hot potato out of hand and say they're busy doing nothing.

The NHS has lost its way and lost sight of its original remit. Once a byword for "free" medical care for all at the point of delivery, billions of pounds are now squandered on top-heavy bureaucratic management and inefficient over-arching structures.

Cash which should be going into medical and patent care is being used to prop up and massage the egos of government ministers and quango cronies playing politics with the NHS and people's lives.

The general election season has opened with bang. The NHS is a key battleground for the high ground but not the only one.

New Labour's dreadful record on jobs, education and the handling of the Afghan War will pop up to take centre stage in the battle for hearts and minds and votes, as a poll in today's Sun reveals.

And there's still nine months tops to go before long-suffering voters have the chance to put the final nail in the coffin of a discredited fag-end government.

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