In another hypocritical move by the government, Jeremy Hunt will today tell NHS bosses they need to save a further £10 BILLION a year.
The same week as Cameron has found £15 BILLION for road works in marginal constituencies which the Conservatives must hold or gain in the next election, Hunt will say that there needs to be a fundamental rethink of how the NHS spends its £110 BILLION budget.
One of the main areas Hunt is targeting is the use of temporary staff – which trusts are forced to use to ensure wards have the minimum staff available to provide their services.
What Hunt chooses to ignore is that training places for nurses have been slashed because cash-strapped trusts are unable to fund places for new recruits. With nurse training lasting a minimum of three years, trusts have no choice but to use temporary staff and recruit from abroad – all as a direct result of government demands and pressures – because there are not enough newly trained nurses to move into basic nursing roles – and this situation will continue in years to come.
Most of the £20 BILLION savings trusts have been able to deliver so far has been the result of freezing staff pay and awarding them 1% pay rises.
Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary, also highlighted the waste of money from the NHS budget by the government “David Cameron spent more than £1billion on pay-offs for NHS managers during the reorganisation – a scandalous waste of money when patient care is heading backwards”.
Hunt also highlights his view that the NHS is wasting money on ‘over-testing’, ‘over-diagnosis’, and ‘over-treatment’ of some patients. Perhaps he fails to realise that testing, diagnosis, and treatment are an essential part of providing healthcare, and when someone has (or is suspected of having) a condition it is necessary to investigate it fully.
Other areas Hunt says trusts need to target are the use of management consultants and surplus buildings and land.
The use of management consultant’s became necessary when Thatcher’s government started to implement policies and directives which changed the perception of the NHS from a service provider to a business. Many of the trusts operated (and still do) on a structure of medical professionals, mainly unskilled in business management. The only way trusts were able to cope with the change was by importing people who had the necessary skills to ensure government demands were met.
The result of this is that many trusts are grossly management heavy as they struggle to comply with government demands within a business model rather than a care model.
The monetization of the NHS – including the incredible amount of administration it brought with it – has resulted in unnecessary spending on management consultants etc.
Trusts have been forced to merge departments into inappropriate buildings in an attempt to save money, often resulting in staff having to share working space with the inevitable effect that they are unable to perform their roles in a timely and professional manner. The sharing of other resources, such as secretarial staff, has born an inefficient system where staff have an increased workload and are unable to ensure patients interests are the prime consideration.
It is fact that many trusts have been forced into unnecessary spending because of government policies and directives. Some trusts are forced to accept national contracts initiated by the government even though the trust may not get full value from the service, and where the service could be commissioned as and when needed – resulting in significant savings rather than the proportional charge to the trust imposed by the government.
As with many other areas of fundamental public services, increased cost and inefficiency have resulted from compliance with the demands of government.
There is waste within any large public organisation, but not necessarily because of mismanagement. Initiatives such as central purchasing and national contracts rarely deliver good value.
Hunt is passing the buck while ensuring the interests of government cronies are protected. There may well come a time when we will hear an announcement by the Conservative government that many NHS services will be operated by private companies as part of some ‘efficiency drive’. We can be sure that such contracts will be highly lucrative for the government’s ‘preferred partners’, as we have already seen in the provision of welfare services.
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