NHS staff in England are being treated worse than any other public sector workers

It was Nigel Lawson, I think, who once opined that the NHS was the nearest thing the British had to a religion.    If so the government has treated its priestly acolytes uniquely badly.   The average real pay of NHS workers has fallen by over 10% since 2009.   No less than 40,000 are paid below the living wage, and many NHS workers have to have second jobs to survive and some even have to use food banks.   Effectively NHS staff donate £1.5bn a year in unpaid overtime.   The government’s decision to refuse to pay even the 1% cost of living increase recommended by the Pay Review Body for 2014-5 added insult to injury.

Now the government has taken its provocative stance still further.   The Health Pay Review Body (PRB) is currently taking submissions on 7-day working in the NHS.   Whilst Agenda for Change sets out unsocial hours rates for NHS staff working evenings, weekends and bank holidays, the Department of Health’s submission to the PRB argues that even unsocial hours payments should now be cut through changing the times defined as ‘unsocial’, paying them plain time rates on Saturdays and lowering rates for Sundays and bank holidays.

These are execrable terms and conditions for devoted personnel so gratefully lauded by patients.   But this is the public face of what is now being done to the NHS.   Spending on the NHS peaked at nearly 8% of GDP in 2009; it’s now just above 7% and is projected to fall to just over 6% by 2021.   That represents £30bn less being spent annually on the NHS compared with 2009.   For comparison France and Germany spend nearly 10% of their GDP on their health services and the US spends 17%!

Other unwelcome pressures are are now exerting themselves on the NHS.   As a result of cuts in local authority social care services because local authority budgets have now been reduced by up to 40%, people either turn to A&E thus increasing the overload so marked in this last winter or are forced to remain an in-patient for longer (bed-blocking).   Again, when NHS Direct was closed down – a serious mistake when it made nurses more accessible on the phone – the new 111 service that replaced it does not have call-handlers with the same level of training, so that people are jamming up A&E to get a medical opinion.

Although the 5-year Forward Review document recently promoted by NHS leaders including Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, demanded £2bn extra to meet health needs, hospital trusts faced with relentlessly increasing savings targets continue to reduce these very same services.   Thus several trusts are currently targeting district nursing services for significant cuts, yet with more than a third of district nursing staff over 50 years old and with community nursing marked as an essential service to reduce inpatient stays, this is totally counter-productive.  Now the government is proposing to implement a mutualisation model for the NHS: this is what existed before the NHS was created in 1948 – a patchwork of provision with no consistency in access to services, care quality or employment arrangements.   As the Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude has himself admitted, “mutualisation is a form of privatisation”.


10 thoughts on “NHS staff in England are being treated worse than any other public sector workers

  1. I expect many people know there are far, far more problems with the NHS than the ones you’ve mentioned, mainly exacerbated by cost cutting. A fellow member of my local 38 Degrees Group is an ambulance driver and I’m sure could add quite a few more pages to this article.

    One point that sticks in my mind is that nowadays there is not enough ambulance cover, so apart from having to attend incidents when they’re supposed to be on their breaks, they sometimes have to chose between which incidents to attend. Should both incidents be life threatening it could (and probably has) caused people to lose their lives.

    Going back to your point about NHS pay, what was really galling was the fact that the government, after agreeing an 11% pay rise for well-paid MPs, turned around and said they couldn’t afford a pay increase for hard working, low paid, nurses and other NHS workers.

    Then there’s the cuts to training, so we now have to advertise jobs abroad for doctors, nurses and other NHS workers. I believe this may have already led to some deaths, sometimes due to language problems. Also, many people, especially the elderly, find it difficult to understand those who talk with strong foreign accents, especially when they’re ill and are having to take in complicated medical terms.

    Another result of cost cutting is that hospitals have removed laundry services for nurses uniforms. I once visited a nurse in her house; she was wearing her uniform as she was about to go on duty. The house was filthy, with pets, children and loose food left all around the kitchen. Unsurprisingly, stories then emerged about patients contracting all sorts of bugs whilst in hospital.

    Privatisation means that precious funds have to be used up on tendering processes, which can cost around £1million each.

    There is the case of an hospital that was forced to grant a contract to a private company, even though it was going to cost £7million more than the original NHS provider had quoted. It turns out that this company then sub-contracted the work back to the NHS provider and are creaming off the difference!! It would appear that Mr Rifkind has a connection with this company.

    On a lighter note, the other day Cameron gave a talk to members of Age UK, no doubt thinking he’d have an easy ride due to not having clobbered the elderly financially, as he has the rest of society, giving savers (or at least those who had managed to save) preferential rates, etc. However they gave him a rough ride, mainly about NHS cuts.

    We’ll all need the NHS sooner or later, so we can’t afford for the government to mess it up. I trust Labour will make it a priority to fix all that’s wrong with the NHS.

  2. Unfortunately Blair Labor, (and McKinsey,) were basically at the root of everything that’s gone wrong with our NHS, so the chances of them putting things right again seem extremely remote so, “any way you look at things you lose?”

  3. Also harping on about these poor people having to take second jobs to make ends meet, (in a country with perhaps between 3-6 million people unemployed,) is scarcely making you many friends, (although I take your point, up to a point.)

    Where are these, second jobs, anyway, (and what are they,) because I can’t find any job at all and haven’t been able to for nearly 4 years now?

  4. The minimum starting salary for a registered nurse is £21,478.


    Which is really not that bad compared to most jobs.

    If there was more money in the pot then obviously our nurses and doctors should always be towards the front of the line;, but clearly we need the money for far more important things like MP’s pay rises, (expenses and buying them all second homes,) the £ 14 Billion in foreign aid that we so generously give away and lets not forget Cameron’s favorite road to nowhere HS2 etc.

  5. The butchered nhs done in by all but todays mockery of whot a man once said the nhs is safe in my hands whot a whopper he told yet this man went on to announce they spending more on the nhs but forgot to say were it was going virgin serco atos you name them they give the monies to these companies under the guise of nhs ops porkies again yet you had a chance to show this up yet you were so so quiet yet again cams stood we taken extra nurses and doctors on forgeting to say were atos maximus and the likes not the nhs its a brian rix but to the ninty nine percent who aint rich are waking up to the fact going unums way isnt for them they want a free for all not a unum policy waving it around to get admission you remember unum was taking tk court for its denial of policys to those who needed to draw from their policy hum are we run by a bunch of crooks well lets put it bluntly if this was done by anyone running a business they be locked up for fraudulent trading yet you allowing them to get away with it but be warned those ninty nine percent will wake up to the fact we been lied to been given austerity while you suffered out yet are we going to see a clean sweep atos crapita serco maximus from our beloved nhs I think you got a long road to travel throwing these companies back out of our system jeff3

  6. The drop in number of nurses and ambulance paramedics is caused by the ESA & PIP testing by Atos / Maxumius takening them away from the NHS. The govt has just doubled the money for Maximus, and they are offering higher salaries, social working hours & office based jobs, to complete the 1 million outstanding tests. These tests should be scrapped – not tinkered with. They are an unnecessary cost, and make people more ill just by the process.

    I do not blame anyone who can get better T&C and pay for doing so. The problem is that Maximus (and many of the companies taking NHS contracts, including Virgin) do not pay corporate tax here, and off-shore profits. So they are not contributing to the infrastructure (schools, training, roads) that are needed to make the system work. This issue from one end to the other is a good example of the entire Tory UK business plan, which impoverishes us all.

  7. The quality of the NHS needs to vastly improve if the staff are to get a pay rise, the amount of people who have died by hospital ‘accidents’, the elderly ignored and put last on the waiting list, the mental health department absolutely worse than any third world country, mothers giving birth left without sufficient care, people left waiting for hours in accident and emergency departments, filthy wards etc etc etc. If you complain about anything serious, you find yourself going round in circles- facing a bureaucratic complaint service, only interested in helping itself.

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