16 January 2013
NEWS - RCN moves to oppose Health and Social Care Bill
19 01 2012 | Frontline First team
The Royal College of Nursing today (19 January) moved to oppose the Health and Social Care Bill in England, arguing that serious concerns expressed by members have not been addressed during the parliamentary process, listening exercise or political engagement.
The RCN, which had not previously opposed the bill as a whole, has taken the decision at this point arguing that the proposals will not deliver on the principles originally set out, and that recent announcements, such as the rise in the cap on private patients being treated in NHS hospitals, make the bill in its entirety a serious threat to the NHS.
RCN Chief Executive & General Secretary Dr Peter Carter said: "Opposing this bill is not a decision we have taken lightly. We have worked hard on behalf of all our members to influence the decisions that have been taken as the bill has gone through parliament. However, it is now clear that these ‘reforms’ are forging ahead on the ground without the concerns of nurses and other clinicians being heeded."
RCN campaign work
The RCN has sought a range of assurances and amendments to the bill but has now reached the conclusion that the reforms as they stand could have the opposite effect from that which was intended. The reforms appear to be pressing ahead locally in tandem with huge cuts to enable the NHS in England to save £20 billion by 2014.
"The RCN has been on record as saying that withdrawing the bill would create confusion and turmoil, however, on the ground, we believe that the turmoil of proceeding with these reforms is now greater than the turmoil of stopping them," added Dr Carter. "The sheer scale of member concerns, which have been building over recent weeks, has led us to conclude that the consequences of the bill may be entirely different from the principles which were originally set out."
The RCN’s Frontline First campaign has shown that cuts of 48,000 NHS posts are being made in England alone and that patient care is undoubtedly being put in jeopardy. With this in mind, the RCN proposed an amendment to the bill which would guarantee safe staffing levels, but the Government chose not to take this proposal forward. The College’s governing Council felt that without these checks and balances, and a commitment to regulate the health care assistants who are so crucial to the delivery of care, the reforms could damage the system they were designed to improve.
Competition compromising care
"Most recently, the announcement that the cap for private income for NHS hospitals would be 49 per cent has left members with real fears that the needs of the market could come ahead of the needs of patients," Dr Carter concluded. "While we are not opposed to the principle of competition in the NHS, recent developments have shown that the balance between competition and quality has become skewed.
"While we will continue to raise the concerns of our members around all aspects of this bill, our overall view is that the bill as a whole risks damaging the NHS which our members work hard to build and to support. In combination with the financial pressures all trusts are facing, and with the rising public health challenge of the coming years, we fear the NHS is now facing a very bleak future."