Be our eyes and ears as the NHS changes

Posted: 23/03/12

Last night, the Conservatives and Liberals passed the NHS and Social Care Bill through Parliament. Labour will overturns it at the first opportunity.

Many thanks to the hundreds of you who have been in touch in recent weeks to express your concerns about the NHS and Social Care Bill. This finished its passage through Parliament last night, despite

· massive opposition from right across the medical and nursing professions

· 1,000 amendments during the Parliamentary process

· the refusal to publish the NHS Risk Register, which would have allowed MPs to properly evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of the changes

You can read the final debate on the link above. So I am asking you to help monitor the impact, by keeping me informed about the local impact- what you hear, what you see and how the combined impact of spending cuts and re-organisation impact on the community.

Why are we so opposed to the NHS Bill?

Not because we are against putting GPs at the heart of decision making, but because the NHS is facing the biggest financial challenge in its history and at the same time, the Government has launched the biggest top-down reorganisation since 1948.

It is widely recognised that this combination of events has exposed the NHS to greater risks. This was acknowledged by the Chief Executive of the NHS when speaking to the Public Accounts Committee:

"I'll not sit here and tell you that the risks have not gone up. They have. The risks of delivering the totality of the productivity savings, the efficiency savings that we need over the next four years have gone up because of the big changes that are going on in the NHS as whole."[1]

What's already happening?

Referral to treatment waiting times

· Referral to treatment waiting times published on Thursday 15th March revealed a worrying increase in the number of patients who waited over 18 weeks for treatment.

· There has been a 25% increase in the number of patients who waited 18 weeks since May 2010. In May 2010 20,662 patients waited 18 weeks, in January 2012 25,823 patients waited 18 weeks.

· The median waiting time has gone up to 8.7 weeks in January 2012, compared to 7.7 weeks in December 2011 and 8.4 weeks in May 2010.

· 32 Trusts missed their target of 90% of patients treated within 18 weeks.

Source: Monthly Referral to Treatment (RTT) waiting times for completed admitted pathways (on an adjusted basis).


A&E waiting times

· For the last eleven weeks running hospitals have failed to meet the Government's own lowered A&E target.

· One of Andrew Lansley's first acts on becoming Health Secretary was to downgrade Labour's A&E waiting time standard that the NHS should see 98% of A&E patients within four hours, to the lower standard of 95%. Since then, NHS A&E waiting time performance has consistently been below that achieved under Labour.

Source: Department of Health, A&E weekly activity statistics, NHS and independent sector organisations in England

Diagnostic waiting times

· Diagnostic waiting time figures published on Wednesday 7th March show an increase in the numbers of patients waiting more and 6 and 13 weeks for 15 key diagnostic tests like MRI, echocardiography or audiology tests.

· Since the election, there has been a 157% increase in the number of patients waiting longer than 6 weeks for key diagnostic tests. (May 2010: 3,495 patients, January 2012: 8,973 patients).

· There has also been a 270% increase in the number of patients waiting longer than 13 weeks (May 2010: 214 patients, January 2012: 792 patients)

· There has also been an increase in the last month in the number of patients waiting longer than 6 weeks. (December 2011: 7,990 patients, January 2012: 8,973 patients)

Source: Department of Health, Waiting times and activity for diagnostic tests

Cuts to the frontline

· Already, since the election 3,500 nursing jobs have been lost, and figures suggest that as many as 6,000 could be lost over the course of this Parliament.

· A survey by Bliss last year reported that:

"One in three hospitals have or will be making cuts to their nursing workforce over the past year or in the coming 12 months. This is through redundancies, recruitment freezes or down-banding nursing posts (demoting nurses or replacing experienced nurses who leave with inexperienced or non specialist nurses)."

· Spending on the NHS was cut in real terms from £102,751 million in 2009-10 to £101,985 million in 2010-11. The Financial Times estimated this was a £750m real terms cut, and £900m less than Labour would have spent.
Hospitals falling behind on efficiency savings

· According to FOI responses received by the Health Service Journal, 68% (or 2 out of 3) of acute trusts missed their savings targets for first 6 months of Nicholson challenge

· At least 5 trusts have made less than 20% of their planned savings for the year

· The NHS trust sector has missed its savings target by £79m or 15%.

We expect the NHS Bill to become law next week. I am writing this to tell you that this will not be the end of the campaign, but with your help, it will be the beginning.

Karen Buck MP

[1] http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmselect/cmpubacc/uc741-i/uc741.pdf