Belfast Telegraph

Healthcare crisis is part of agenda to private our NHS bit by bit

By Patricia McKeown

If you want to run an agenda designed to boost private medicine for profit then first discredit the NHS.

This may seem cynical, but Unison is convinced that there is more to the current crises in acute care, home care and residential care than mere incompetence at the highest levels.

Since the reorganisation of trusts in 2007 we have been challenging the casualisation of employment through the use and abuse of agency workers.

Across the negotiating table we have been continually told that the practice has ceased. On the ground, we are continually told by workers that it continues at full pace.

The amount of money being squandered on agency costs is more than the current financial deficit across the entire service, which today stands at £210m.

The figures for the money spent on agency workers obtained by the Belfast Telegraph are unprecedented and should have been released to unions, but were not.

Unison was shocked to learn some months ago that NHS workforce planning had ground to a halt. We believe that workforce planning has been abandoned to avoid replacement of job vacancies across health and social care.

The result is a spiralling agency bill, a towering deficit and a system out of control. The service appears to be in systems failure.

Those at the top, who are responsible for a catalogue of disasters – such as the delayed payment of wages in recent weeks – are baling out.

Accountability appears to apply only to front line staff but never to the decision-makers, who can move around the service with ease or retire leaving the mess behind.

Bureaucracy in the form of unaccountable structures such as 'hospital improvement boards' and 'local commissioners' is mushrooming out of control and putting even more strain on a budget which is now demonstrating that the cuts imposed by the Executive since 2007 have gone too far.

We have demanded a meeting with the Health Minister.

It is time for honesty and action.

It is time for a fundamental review and re-evaluation of a plan which does not and will not work.

 

Patricia McKeown is regional secretary for Unison

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