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Three quarters of nurses want health bill dropped


An overwhelming majority of nurses believe the health and social care bill should be dropped, according to a poll by Nursing Times.  

The online survey, carried out over the last five days, is the first attempt to quantify what the profession thinks about the government’s controversial and increasingly embattled NHS reform programme.

The majority of the 370 respondents, 77%, thought the bill should be dropped.

Of these 31% said the legislation should be withdrawn but the policy of giving clinicians more influence over NHS commissioning should be retained.

For example, one respondent said:  “[There is] potentially a huge opportunity for nurses and nursing to shape and influence commissioning and care provision in line with best practice to reduce variation and pot luck, and truly focus on effectively meeting patient needs with a locally agreed agenda.”

A further 28% thought it should be dropped and the reforms halted at their current stage, with emergency legislation drafted as soon as possible to make the best of and job, but 18% said the bill should be dropped and the reforms reversed as much as possible.

One respondent said: “The NHS reforms will alienate a large section of existing staff – many will leave – standards will drop”, while another said: “This government hasn’t got a clue. It is making change for change’s sake.”

Only 4% of respondents said the bill should be passed because some or most of the reforms were needed. One said: “Major reform is long overdue. I do not have an issue with private companies providing NHS care since the NHS is woefully inefficient and poorly managed.”

A further 4% said the bill should be passed but with the expectation that substantial reform would be needed again in a few years time.

Asked which of the reform policies they were most concerned about, the many highlighted areas linked to increased competition for contracts the perceived threat from the private sector.

Around three quarters of respondents, 77%, said they were concerned that private providers would “cherry pick” profitable areas of care, leaving costly and complex patients to the NHS.

In addition, 48% said they were concerned about increased competition for NHS contracts, including access to private and charity providers, and 43% that NHS trusts were being allowed to increase the amount of private patients they treated.

However, 61% highlighted concern over new commissioning structures leading to regional variations in the quality of care and 52% said they were worried about the transfer of the majority of public health responsibility from primary care trusts to local councils.

Asked which, if any, of the government’s reform policies they supported, 52% of respondents said they backed greater clinical involvement in commissioning decisions and 18% supported new commissioning structures enabling commissioners to respond to local need.

However, 31% said they did not support any of the policies.

The poll result comes just weeks after the criticisms set out in Nursing Times’ joint leader with Health Service Journal and the BMJ, which said the reforms had “destabilised and damaged” the NHS.

Last month the royal colleges of nursing and midwives came out in open opposition to the bill.


Readers' comments (32)

  • michael stone

    Of course, the official goverment position is that everyone within the NHS who objects to the Bill, is really objecting to things like their own pension changes.

    I can remember Thatcher's lot parroting 'you would all like the poll tax, if you understood it properly': her lot never answered 'how do I make it clear that I do understand it, and I still do not like it ?!'

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  • In view of all the controversy, opposition and lack of trust in this bill it should be scrapped immediately before any further damage is done.

    A new and more appropriate bill should be produced after a thorough analysis from experts in health care, including front line clinicians from all the disciplines to determine which reforms which are essential for the enhancement of patient care. The government need to be forced to listen to expert advice and accept agreement from all branches of the healthcare professions, service users and the general public. The core values of the NHS determined at its inception must be upheld as this is what the majority of British citizens want.

    There must be less involvement and interference with the NHS from outside private companies such as the McKinsey consultancy and others with strongly vested interests who have already demanded extortionate fees for their 'services' to the NHS. All profits made from the NHS should be invested in the infrastructure of the organisation and resources needed for patient care which includes adequate staffing levels, fair salary structures with social benefits, adequate and more attractive working conditions and contracts. Employers have to remember their staff are their most important and costly asset and each needs to be treated with respect in order to get the best out of them. They are not simply tools to be used and discarded when they are no longer needed.

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  • I fear it will not matter how may surveys, polls, negative votes in the Lords or Unions oppose this bill, Cameron is now in a position where it would be political suicide to own up to a huge mistake, and abandon this bill.

    In situations such as this, the politicians first instinct is to save himself, regardless of the cost to others.

    So the bill will go through, and when it all starts to unravel, Landsley will carry the can, and DC will carry on as if he had nothing to do with it.

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  • Tipperary Tim | 13-Feb-2012 11:33 am

    I fear you are right. Tragic that pride can stand in the way of the greater good.

    Only time will tell and it will all unravel if there is a dramatic negative impact on patient care and human lives.

    So much money has been thrown at this McKinsey affair and been wasted!

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  • How much time is there still left before this bunch of hypocrits, managing our, second rate, country, destroy our highly esteemed National Health Service completely, in favour of an elite, privatised h(W)ealth service?
    Any more staff redundancies in the health services, and ward and theatre closures, it will soon end up as a DIY service, where we all work from home.

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  • Anonymous | 13-Feb-2012 12:46 pm

    Our society seems to be becoming more and more DIY, and future healthcare may be no exception, when one sees the elderly having to struggle with all the new and evolving technology replacing people in offices and at counters offering advice and assistance.

    Banking, information seeking, getting tickets and making bookings, etc. requires some skills which some of the elderly do not have, especially those whose fingers are less agile, whose eye sight may be poor and who are slow to learn new skills. It can be costly too for some given the equipment needed and the cost of the connection as well as time consuming.

    All this DIY and not knowing where to get help or support, especially for healthcare, could be an isolating and frightening experience.

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  • Of course, the official goverment position is that everyone within the NHS who objects to the Bill, is really objecting to things like their own pension changes.

    I can remember Thatcher's lot parroting 'you would all like the poll tax, if you understood it properly': her lot never answered 'how do I make it clear that I do understand it, and I still do not like it ?!'

    It's called an unelected dictatorship!

    I heard the tail end of a debate on Radio last night, and the interviewee, a famous American, said that it was the States that could learn from the NHS and not vice versa. He then went onto say about his recent experience in the NHS and compared it to the USA, and the US couldn't compete with his NHS experience.

    And Lansley continues to plough his lone furrow with the cheers of private companies ringing in his ears!

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  • michael stone

    Tipperary Tim | 13-Feb-2012 11:33 am

    There are Tory MPs who are now very worried, that by the next election the NHS will be seen to have problems, and that instead of the public associating their grievances with Lansley, they will blame the Tories as a whole - that is just about the only way, the Bill could ever be pulled !

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  • michael stone


    Some months ago, when the RCN and also NT were saying 'We have got the changes - we have got nurses on the boards - we have won !' a few of us, such as myself and Mike, did post comments of 'no you bloody well haven't - you need to keep shouting'.

    But most people and organisations 'went quiet' at the end of that 'consultation break' - bad error !

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  • Michael Stone

    Indeed - the Tories are worried that they will all be tarred with the same brush, the PM is choosing his words very carefully saying that he totally backs Lansley's reforms (as opposed to the Torie reforms...), and Labour are now engaging in the same silly game. Everyone knows that the bill needs to be aborted, but Labour are kinda hoping it will go through so that they can make political gain from the inevitable disaster that will follow.

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