How Domestic Budget Cuts Will Affect You: Health Services
The domestic spending cuts — which are in marked contrast to the increased spending on foreign aid, EU membership and the war in Afghanistan — will directly reduce the number of healthcare professionals available to serve the British public.
According to the British Medical Association, the NHS faces “devastating cuts to jobs and patient services as the Government’s austerity drive hits the health service.”
A survey carried out for the BMA and recently released to the public found that “thousands of doctors and nurses face being made redundant or not replaced if they leave, while many hospitals have cut treatments.”
The BMA researchers asked 361 doctors, who between them represent committees at all of Britain’s hospital trusts and some larger primary care trusts, how the NHS was being affected by the demand to make £20 billion of cuts.
Around 43 percent of respondents confirmed that there was a “freeze” on doctor and nurse recruitment, despite increasing demand for services.
Another 40 percent of respondents said that patient treatments, including varicose vein operations and blood tests, were being “rationed.”
According to doctors in Bedfordshire, instructions have also been given not to refer patients with certain ailments, such as skin lesions and cysts, to hospitals “except in exceptional circumstances.”
Furthermore, the BMA said that 25 percent of respondents confirmed that their NHS Trust was planning to make workers redundant.
Chairman of the BMA, Dr Hamish Meldrum, said in the report that “Whilst we accept that difficult decisions need to be taken in this tight financial climate, there is a real danger that cutting back on health now will have a long-lasting impact on our ability to maintain high-quality, comprehensive and universal care in the future.”
The Royal College of Nursing said earlier this year that about 5,600 jobs were under threat across 26 hospital trusts. In a “worst case scenario”, the true figure could be as high as 30,000, it said.
* Figures from the NHS Information Centre, released in August last year, said that the health service was already facing “unsustainable pressure" as it struggled to recruit nurses and hospital doctors.
The figures, which analysed jobs unfilled as of March last year, found that 5.2 percent of all NHS medical posts, which includes hospital doctors and dentists, were vacant, up from 3.6 percent the previous year.
The proportion which had been vacant for three months, considered an indication of hard-to-fill posts, was 1.5 percent, up from 0.9 percent.
Vacant midwife positions also rose, from 2.1 to 3.4 percent. Of those, 1 percent were long-term vacancies, up from 0.8 percent.
The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has previously warned that England already needs an extra 5,000 midwives to provide an acceptable level of care.