Labour attacks Health Bill costs
Money earmarked for the costs of reorganising the National Health Service could pay to prevent the loss of 6,000 nursing jobs, Labour claims.
Labour leader Ed Miliband will use the figure to renew pressure on the Government to drop its controversial shake-up after warning there were just three months to save the NHS.
According to Opposition calculations, more than 3,500 nursing jobs have been lost since the Government came to power and another 2,500 are under threat.
The £1.7 billion set aside to pay for the changes in the Health and Social Care Bill would more than pay for the £748 million cost of protecting all of those jobs, it believes.
Mr Miliband will use a visit to a Kent hospital to step up his campaign against the Bill, which is due to return to the House of Lords this week for further debate.
He is expected to 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 top-down reorganisation at the same time as it is cutting thousands of nurses. Labour's priority is protecting the front line, not a pointless and damaging reorganisation of the NHS.
"So we are 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. In opposition David Cameron told people he could be trusted to protect the NHS. In Government he has put Tory free-market ideology ahead of basic patient care."
Health minister Anne Milton said: "Labour's accusations are wrong on all counts. Since the election we've cut admin staff by 15,000 and the total number of clinical staff has remained the same. If we were not proceeding with modernisation in the NHS, by the end of this Parliament there would be £1.5 billion not available to support services and frontline staff.
"Stopping the reforms now would mean cutting nursing posts. The shape of staffing in the NHS is changing and the increase in doctors and therapists relative to nurses reflects that. But nursing numbers continue to be at highest-ever levels in areas where they are needed. The ratio of nurses to the number of acute beds in hospital has improved significantly over the last 18 months."