Political and Parliamentary Monitoring
Week Commencing 24th September 2018
Labour has attacked the Government’s cuts to public health budgets, as the Party held its annual conference in Liverpool. Shadow Secretary of State for Health, Jonathan Ashworth, told delegates that 85% of local authorities in the country had been forced to slice their public health services due to diminishing allowances from the Department of Health. Union leaders representing nurses, health visitors and midwives slammed the cuts and expressed their concern about the impact on their members. In total, over £800 million is being taken away from public health in the six years to 2020-21, according to the Opposition.
A total of 88 councils are slicing their spending on the NHS health check programme, whilst the national child measurement programme is also losing over £1 million of funding. Mr Ashworth said that “these swingeing cuts to public health budgets are short sighted, cynical and wrong.” Clare Livingstone, professional policy advisor at the Royal College of Midwives, said the budget cuts were “not logical”.
Mr Ashworth continued to attack the previous Conservative Government for the expense incurred during the previous reorganisation of the NHS, and vowed to resist cuts in Parliament. In response, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said “there is always more to be done, which is exactly why we are giving £16 billion to local council to fund public health services over the current spending period.”
This news will interest the PCF greatly. It is essential to have accessible bladder and bowel issues checked in school. Without school nurses, it will take longer to receive an official diagnosis, as parents and young people are forced to access services through their GP or manage the condition independently. Whitehouse will continue to monitor policy developments as they happen across all major party conferences.
- NHS workforce continues to tumble
- Local areas face tough NHS funding choices
- RCN council forced to quit
NHS learning disability nursing workforce hits records low
Statistics released from the National Health Service have shown a sharp decline in the number learning disability nurses working in hospital and community health services in England. A total of 3,192 learning disability nurses were employed in England in June 2018, the lowest since records began in September 2009 when 5,553 were employed. The number of health visitors has also fallen significantly, to 7,910, the lowest level since October 2012.
The news comes as the NHS’s enters the second phase of its nursing recruitment drive. Over 250,000 people have visited the recruitment website since the campaign was launched three months to go to learn more about a career in nursing. The new phase will specifically target students starting their final year of A-levels or those taking a year out before university. The national campaign aims to increase the total number of applications into the NHS by 90,000 as well as to double the number of nurses returning to practice and improve retention of staff in all sectors.
Responding to news that the number of learning disability nurses and health visitors had fallen, Professor Bob Gates, a leading learning disabilities expert, said that it was a “sad reflection on the NHS that they are not able to provide the senior leadership necessary to resolve this situation, and also a poor reflection on the value placed on one of the most marginalised groups in our society – especially when we know wo much about health inequality.” We reported earlier this year that the Royal College of Nursing was warning that crisis in the number of staff vacancies risked forcing the health service to a return to the Victorian era.
This news will interest the PCF given we have reported by the increased vacancies over the last few months, as well as concerns about pay and working conditions. The PCF will welcome the news that the NHS’s recruitment drive is successful, although Whitehouse will continue to highlight current demand, especially for those children and young people currently under the care of the health service.
Local areas face ‘tough choices’ health service bosses warn
Health economies which are struggling financially will have to make “difficult choices” as national NHS chiefs seek to deliver a breakeven position in 2018-19. Finance bosses at NHS Improvement and NHS England say they are looking to reduce the planned deficit for the provider sector by almost £300 million, as well as cutting planned commissioning spending by more than £260 million. The national bodies have also this week announced plans to deliver a balanced budget for the overall health service in 2018-19.
A joint finance paper said that NHS England was “committed to achieving a balanced budget ” and had agreed with NHS Improvement to a join programme of actions designed to eliminate the £519 million deficit recently reported by the organisations. The commissioning sector, which organises the procurement of new services and treatments, is expected to provide an underspend this year to offset a high deficit reported amongst service providers and NHS Trusts.
The news comes just weeks after NHS trusts forecasted a combined deficit of more than £500 million, despite an earlier commitment to break-even. Many Trusts have released plans outlining where they will make considerable savings, although in previous years many have fallen short of ambitions. Sally Gainsbury, senior policy analyst at the Nuffield Trust, said that the figures “are a reminder that [despite pledges to increase health funding] we are starting underwater”, adding that the health service’s first priority must be “simply getting back to a firm footing.”
This news will interest PCF members, given Trusts are a main provider of care for young people with bladder and bowel issues. The news that they continue to overspend, and will therefore need to reduce expenditure, will cause concern given that it can take many months to access procedures and appointments, which are usually delayed.
RCN council must stand down after no-confidence vote
It has been announced this afternoon that the whole council of the Royal College of Nurses must stand down after losing a vote of no confidence. At a special Emergency General Meeting held in Birmingham today, following uproar over the organisation’s failure to properly negotiate a pay increase, 78 per cent of respondents voted in favour of the motion to remove the current leadership.
The EGM was organised in response to a petition signed by more than 1,000 members. In total, 11,156 people voted in favour of the resolution which stated, “we have no confidence in the current leadership of the RCN, and call on council to stand down.” A further 3,124 people voted against the motion and 1,112 abstained.
There has been much uproar amongst the nursing union since the leadership bodged a pay increase negotiation which saw the organisation promise staff substantial pay increases and back pay, but which ultimately led to nurses receiving only an additional few pence each month through the actual terms and conditions associated with the deal. We have reported over the last few months about new data which suggests that pay in the sector has dropped by more than ten per cent in real terms in the last eight years.
This is breaking news, but will be welcomed by many Forum members who have seen their pay and conditions eroded over the last eight years. Whitehouse will continue to update the PCF as and when more information is published.