[For immediate release 4 August 2015]
Monitor’s instruction to NHS Foundation trusts to fill NHS vacancies ‘only where necessary’ because of ‘unaffordable’ financial plans [http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/aug/04/nhs-told-to-fill-vacancies-only-where-essential-due-to-looming-funding-crisis] is as flawed as it is dangerous – and will cost lives. Risks will be taken and mistakes made because the NHS is being forced to operate a ‘market’ it does not want and no one voted for but which is costing millions to run. And it is completely unnecessary.
The instruction from Monitor (and from the Trust Development Agency for non-Foundation trusts) comes at a time when the NHS is facing unprecedented financial difficulties after years of systematic under-funding in real terms.
Yet it ignores the overriding truth. Which is that NHS trusts do not create ‘unnecessary’ posts – they are faced with spiralling demand and costs and have had to cope with real-term reductions now for well over 5 years.
And who is to say what is and is not ‘essential’? ‘Non-essential’ jobs were ignored and left vacant at Mid-Staffs as it scrambled to meet impossible financial targets: exactly what this edict will re-create all over England. Plans are only unaffordable because this government is determined to cut NHS services and encourage private ones, and not because NHS organisations are ‘inefficient’ or ‘unrealistic’. The NHS is the most efficient form of health service in the world [http://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/fund-reports/2014/jun/mirror-mirror ] but is being starved of funds.
Dr Tony O’Sullivan is a consultant paediatrician, and a member of Keep Our NHS Public and the Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign
‘”Who can decide what is ‘essential’: is cleaning a hospital going to be deemed non-essential, or helping a patient to eat and drink? Exactly the spectre of what happened at Mid-Staffs.
“After over 10 years of efficiency savings, there are virtually no non-essential jobs left and an increasing bureaucracy to deal with the introduction of the market in the NHS, including tendering of services and the enforced competition between trusts.”
Alan Taman, Keep Our NHS Public’s Campaigns and Media Officer:
“This will cost lives. How many more people left in under-staffed wards, alone and afraid, as hospitals struggle to make ends meet? How many more times will people be kept waiting as their chronic diseases slowly kill them, because they can’t afford the luxury of private care and that is increasingly the only timely option? People are being put at risk by this attack on the NHS.
“If the NHS was not bound by government dogma to follow the ideology of a ‘market place for health’, all of the NHS’s plans would be ‘affordable’. This is yet another step to downgrading our NHS and encouraging private health for those who can afford it, leaving those who cannot (ie, most of us) to struggle in an under-funded, under-resourced NHS.”
Keep Our NHS Public was formed in 2005 and has a broad-based, public membership. There are 46 local groups, plus a national association. It has the explicit aim of countering marketisation [1-3] and privatisation of the NHS by campaigning for a publicly funded, publicly provided and publicly accountable NHS, available to all on the basis of clinical need. It is opposed to cuts in service which run counter to these principles. Further details: www.keepournhspublic.com
 The belief that ‘competition is always best’ does not work when applied to healthcare. A comprehensive and universal health service is best funded by public donation, which has been shown to be far more efficient overall than private-insurance healthcare models. [Lister, J. (2013) Health Policy Reform: global health versus private profit. Libri: Faringdon.]
 Davis, J., Lister, J. and Wrigely, D. (2015) NHS For Sale. London: Merlin Press.
Leys, C. and Player, S. (2011) The Plot Against the NHS. Pontypool: Merlin
Lister, J. (2008) The NHS After 60: For Patients or Profits? London: Middlesex University Press
Owen, D. (2014) The Health of the Nation: The NHS in Peril. York: Methuen, Chapter 4.
Player, S. (2013) ‘Ready for market’. In NHS SOS ed by Davis, J. and Tallis, R. London: Oneworld, pp.38-61.