Fight Welsh NHS Cuts
17th July 2012Claire Job, a nurse for Abertawe Bro Morgannwg health board, spoke at the Wales Shop Stewards Network conference about the need to fight for the future of the NHS in Wales.
Devolution in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland has effectively split the National Health Service into four. The Health and Social Care Act effectively replaces England's NHS with a health market.
In Wales, we risk thinking that because we do not yet face such privatisation as England, we're okay. But the NHS in Wales now faces greater financial pressures than any other area of the UK.
The seven health boards in Wales have to find £300 million of 'savings' (ie cuts), around 5% of their budgets on average, every year for the next three years.
In the last financial year, four of the health boards only met their targets because they were given additional funding from the Welsh government - but that's not going to happen any more.
The NHS in Wales has already carried out £290 million 'savings' in 2011-12 on top of the unprecedented £1 billion cut since 2005.
Wales' Labour government has gone on a publicity offensive about the importance of redesigning health services in Wales. They say a better NHS is one where:
- We lose hundreds of hospital beds from every health board. But a recent Royal College of Nursing survey highlighted the growing practice of Wales patients being treated on trolleys in casualty corridors.
- The number of A&E/casualty units is reduced.
- Your local district general hospital is downgraded and centres of excellence are established.
Rates of heart disease, respiratory illness and mental illness are high in parts of Wales, particularly in the South Wales Valleys. The links between poverty and ill health are well-documented and established.
Cardiff University has released a paper investigating the effects of the economic downturn on health. It concludes that there will be deterioration in health for those who become long-term unemployed or who enter into a cycle of low-paid, insecure employment.
A freeze on recruitment in many health boards leads to an over-reliance on agency nurses. This alone cost the NHS in Wales £50 million in the year up to April 2011.
The prospect of regional pay could have frightening effects on recruiting and retaining health professionals in Wales, with nurses and doctors migrating to higher paid localities. The impact of this on services and the delivery of health care in lower paid and deprived areas will be huge.
Health services in Wales are changing. Their shape will not reflect the needs of the people of Wales. Their shape will reflect the unprecedented cuts in NHS funding unless we can defeat them. We need to unite and fight.