Campaigners Warn Of NHS Job Losses

Campaigners have warned of an escalation in the number of NHS job losses in the new year as hospital trusts continue to cut costs. Pressure group Health Emergency estimated that more than 22,000 jobs had been axed in 2006 and 2,500 beds closed across the UK.

The cuts will be escalated in the new year because of Government pressure to balance the books by the end of the financial year in March, the group predicted.

The new year will also see the first results of reviews by strategic health authorities, which could see the closure or downgrading of accident and emergency and maternity centres.

Thousands of people have protested in recent months against NHS cuts in towns and cities across the country, and more demonstrations are planned in the new year.

Geoff Martin, Health Emergency’s head of campaigns, said: “2006 has been the year when the staff and the public who support the idea of free healthcare services close to home started to fight back.

“We know that we will have to ramp up the campaigning in the new year once the cuts and closures targets on the Government’s infamous ‘Heat Map’ become clear. For a Labour Government to launch a two-pronged attack on the NHS through cuts and privatisation is electoral suicide, and many of their backbenchers know it.

“Any Government that threatens nurses with the sack while feathering the nests of management consultants and the private sector is playing with fire. We warned in 2006 that the Government’s undermining of the NHS could do for new Labour what the poll tax did for Margaret Thatcher and the Tories.

“In 2007, we will start to see the electoral implications of the Government’s cuts and privatisation policies coming home to roost, and we expect to force some major policy changes as Tony Blair prepares to exit the stage.”

A Department of Health spokesman said: “Very few people are losing their jobs. In the first six months of the current financial year, there were 903 compulsory redundancies, including 167 clinical staff, which is regrettable but way off the figures Health Emergency bandied around earlier in the year. Health Emergency should also get a sense of perspective. A reduction in workforce numbers should be seen in the context of a total workforce of some 1.3 million, which has experienced an increase of 268,000 during the previous six years.”