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RCN and RCM sign open letter to three main political parties


Political promises of extra cash for the NHS are insufficient to address a funding crisis that is putting at risk the founding principles of the health service, an influential coalition of doctors, nurses and medical charities has warned.

The Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats have all made protecting health funding a priority in their party conference pitches to voters as the issue takes centre stage ahead of May’s general election.

But in an open letter to the three parties published in the Independent newspaper, the leaders of the organisations said “the longest, and most damaging budget squeeze” in NHS history had left it at “breaking point”, with patients increasingly feeling the effects.

“Too many staff feel undervalued and demoralised when all they want is to be able to care for patients”

Open letter

Health spending has been protected from the austerity cuts imposed across most of Whitehall, but had not risen sufficiently to prevent the NHS “buckling under the twin crises of rising demand and flatlining budgets”, they wrote.

The letter was signed by the heads of the Royal College of Nursing, the Royal College of Midwives, the British Medical Association, the Royal College of GPs and four other royal colleges, plus the Faculty of Public Health.

It was also signed by charities including the Alzheimer’s Society, the Anthony Nolan Trust, the MS Society, the Royal National Institute of Blind People, the Teenage Cancer Trust, and the Family Doctor Association.

Peter Carter

They cautioned: “Savings have been made, and despite the best efforts of nurses, doctors and other staff, patients have not been insulated from these cuts. Too many staff feel undervalued and demoralised when all they want is to be able to care for patients.

“A shortage of GPs means that patients are struggling to get an appointment to see their doctor,” the letter states. “Pressures on maternity services mean that many women are not getting the high quality care they deserve,” they add.

Accident and emergency unit targets were being missed – in some cases for an entire year – patients faced “unacceptable” waits for cancer diagnoses, and patients requiring emergency mental health support were being moved to hospitals hundreds of miles away from home.

“The NHS and our social care services are at breaking point and things cannot go on like this”

Open letter

Social care shortfalls meant dementia sufferers “have been cut adrift, reliant on unpaid and unsupported carers to live from day to day” and problems were being stored up for the future by a failure to invest properly in children and young people’s physical and mental health, they suggested in the letter.

Cathy Warwick

Cathy Warwick

“The NHS and our social care services are at breaking point and things cannot go on like this. An NHS deficit of £30bn is predicted by 2020 – a funding black hole that must be filled,” they wrote.

“While we welcome the fact that the NHS has risen to the top of the political agenda, and some new spending commitments have been made, we need a comprehensive, fully costed, long-term spending plan if an NHS true to its founding principles of universal healthcare, provided according to need not ability to pay, is secured for future generations,” they add.



Readers' comments (10)

  • We may want to consider a myriad of things:

    1)I believe that the level of health tourism from the EU and beyond is under estimated. This issue should be tackled as a growing pool of patients with finite national resources , ultimately results in a dilution of what we are able to provide within the NHS. The EU entails a single market allowing the exchange of sources of production without borders (people, capital, services, goods) but does this imply free treatment on the NHS too and immediate access to benefits?

    2)Fertility treatment should be self funded - not treated as a basic minimum

    3)Patients admitted to A&E with alcohol related symptoms should be charged - I recognise that it is an illness, but the line needs to be drawn somewhere?

    4)More investment should be made into the community (spend in the community to save in the acute sector).

    5)Systematic approach's to be taken in terms of how we will look after the over 65's and considering the cost of managing LTC's and how this should be managed system wide.

    I'm sure that there are loads more, and we should be thinking broadly

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  • Well done to all involved for writing the letter and well done The Independent for publishing it so prominently.
    Maybe now the politicos will actually address the funding issue, instead of tinkering around the edges of it.
    However, I do worry that it may be used by the Tories to justify complete privatisation to make up the funding gap...if they were ever to get a majority. I still remember Cameron's pre-election promise last time - "No top down reorganisation"

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  • This is a letter that needed to be written.The NHS also seems to be at the mercy of fraudulent contractors who promise they have the answers to technology for the NHS then fail to deliver a working computer system that has cost the NHS millions.The wastage within the NHS also needs addressing as well as the concerns raised in the letter.
    I really don't think that breaking everything up into performing NHS 'Trusts' really helped anything at all-just mulitiplied the bureaucracy and expenses all round.

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  • Glad to read this letter has been sent but working on the grass roots in the NHS, highlighting on a weekly basis the suffering of staff desperately trying to cling on to the delivery of safe care and failing. It's hard to see where change will come from, who will save our NHS? Who will care for us the care givers, the heart and soul of this much loved public service?
    We have I believe already come apart at the seams and the hope of a political rescue is all but gone. I am so deeply saddened to have worked 35 years and watched the swift decline :(

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  • None of the present or past governments, over the past 40+ years has shown an interest in the NHS. That is why it is in such an awful state at the moment, and the reason nurse morale is so low.
    They are happy to allow foreigners in to have free hospital treatment; vain women to have free cosmetic surgery, which is then exploited to make pornographic films or worse???
    The NHS should be run for the low paid people in this country only, not frittered away on the wealthy, overseas foreigners, who do not reciprocate.

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  • If we, health workers, have to tell government/political parties of the state of the NHS, then it either proves they are so out of touch or it is deliberate - privatisation. I'd put my money on the latter (and might have to!).

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  • British people who worked and lived abroad did not contribute anything to the country during their working age, but they do return to uk to enjoy free NHS treatment and benefit. The government also need to look through those people.

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  • I blame the tories for this demise of the NHS

    Vince Cable was correct in what he said about the tories yesterday in that the despise anything public, because they and there cronies car'nt make money out of it

    the despise the welfare state and the NHS..two institutions brought about by the working men of this country

    and the crocodile tears about how passionate cameron was about the crap...

    he lied four years ago about no top down re-organisation....he has lied ever since!!!!!

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  • Anonymous | 7-Oct-2014 8:25 am

    those people who contributed to the system all their working lives and possibly paid for your healthcare without using the services themselves during their absence. as British citizens returning to the UK do they have any less entitlement than you do?

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  • The problem is NOT political, as both the Labour party and the Conservative Party have done their best at trying to deal with this problem and have thrown billions of our hard earnt money at the NHS even at very dificult economic times .
    The fault lies quite squarely in Bad Management ,top to bottom. We all know what they do with whistleblowers thats why everyone is corresponding anonymously isn't it

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