Sunday, October 22, 2006


No cuts to the pay of bureaucrats, though; THEY are essential

Doctors and nurses are facing pay cuts as the Government struggles to resolve the hospital deficit crisis that has led to thousands of job losses. Nurses' unions accused the Department of Health of bullying after it insisted that medical staff should have a below-inflation pay rise to plug the hole in budgets, saying that patients would suffer otherwise.

The department said that doctors, nurses, midwives and dentists should get basic pay rises of 1.5 per cent next year, despite the NHS budget rising by 9 per cent. The 1.5 per cent offer is less than half the rate of inflation, so in real terms pay rates would be cut.

In its evidence to the independent pay review boards, the department gave warning that without pay restraint the NHS would not be able to tackle its deficits, jobs would be cut and patient care would suffer. It said: "The NHS is facing a challenging financial period with the need to change a 512 million pound deficit in 2005-06 into lasting financial balance." The department added: "All NHS pay is met from the general NHS allocation; there is no separate funding for pay. Therefore, pay uplifts must be affordable, otherwise funding for patient services will suffer. If pay levels are too high, NHS employers may well need to reduce staff posts."

Unions, which will present their claims on Tuesday, said that the Government was bullying them into accepting an offer that amounted to just 2p an hour for a newly qualified nurse. Karen Jennings, Unison's head of health, said: "It is outrageous to suggest that unless staff take what is effectively a pay cut, jobs will go and patients will suffer." Josie Irwin, head of employment at the Royal College of Nursing, said that the offer was derisory. "It is a slap in the face for the staff who have worked so hard under such intense pressure to deliver the Government's health reforms."

The Government faces the prospect of industrial action from Amicus, the union for health workers. Kevin Coyne, its national health officer, said: "Unless an improved [offer] is put on the table we will not hesitate to proceed to ballot for industrial action." The British Medical Association has already demanded a 4 per cent pay rise for doctors.

The Government dismissed claims that 1.5 per cent amounted to a pay cut because staff also got a rise for each year worked. Pay for some staff would be cut but the offer delivered a 4 per cent increase in average earnings "which compares with the average across the whole economy".

Andrew Lansley, the Shadow Health Secretary, said that Ms Hewitt was trying "to make NHS staff pay for the consequences of the Government's financial mismanagement and the 1.3 billion deficit from last year".



Cancer sufferers in England are to be denied a life-extending drug because the Government's drugs rationing watchdog has refused to fund treatment, it was claimed last night. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence will announce next week that Velcade should not be offered on the NHS to treat multiple myeloma, a cancer of the bone marrow. A course of Velcade costs between 9,000 and 18,000 pounds and was approved for use in Scotland in 1994.

Cancer charities and victims of the disease criticised the decision by NICE, saying that it was the latest example of the watchdog trying to save the Government money by rejecting drugs that increase life expectancy. Since June, NICE has refused to endorse five treatments that would extend the lives of people with bowel cancer, leukaemia and breast cancer, as well as Alzheimer's disease.

Janice Wrigglesworth, 59, from Keighley, in West Yorkshire, has multiple myeloma. She condemend the decision as insanity. She said: "Are they saying a Scottish life is worth more than an English life? "They are effectively saying to people with incurable diseases, `sit down in a darkened room and die'."

NICE refused to comment on next week's announcement. However, a spokesman said: "NICE's expert advisers review all the evidence on cancer treatments to determine whether they add benefits for patients when compared to other treatments that are already available. "The benefits that we assess include whether a drug extends life, and whether a drug improves patients' quality of life." A Department of Health spokesman said that it could not comment until the guidance was published.



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL hospitals and health insurance schemes should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the very poor and minimal regulation. Both Australia and Sweden have large private sector health systems with government reimbursement for privately-provided services so can a purely private system with some level of government reimbursement or insurance for the poor be so hard to do?

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