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Unions claim NHS reforms are 'badly timed vanity project'

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Union leaders have criticised the government’s NHS reforms, describing them as “dangerous”, “a big mistake”, and “uncosted and untested”.

Trades Union Congress general secretary Brendan Barber said the reforms, confirmed today in the Department of Health’s white paper response document, amounted to “cuts, top-down organisation and privatisation by stealth”, which he warned could cost up to £3bn at a time when government health spending was being cut in real terms.

He said: “So far, tuition fees and higher education cuts have given the coalition their most difficult moments, but support for the NHS is built into our national DNA and this looks like the government’s most dangerous policy yet.”

Union Unison described the reforms as a “vanity project” for health secretary Andrew Lansley, which was “unnecessary, badly-timed, ill-thought through and damaging”.

The union unsuccessfully attempted to get the reforms halted earlier in the year through a judicial review, claiming the government had begun implementing them before the end of the consultation period.

Unison head of health Karen Jennings said: “Lansley’s so-called consultation was a sham and a foregone conclusion. By forging ahead with his plans in the teeth of fierce opposition from leading health experts, patient groups, staff, unions and GPs themselves, he is showing an utter disregard for the long term future of the NHS.”

The Unite union warned that Mr Lansley’s decision to continue with the white paper reforms would “drive the NHS into the buffers”.

Unite national officer for health Karen Reay said the reforms were “uncosted and untested” and would act as an “open sesame to private healthcare companies to take over the running of the NHS”.

She said: “Andrew Lansley has not listened to the concerns of major health organisations, such as the Royal College of GPs and the British Medical Association, and is pressing ahead with these ill-considered reforms, which were cobbled together in just six weeks after the general election.”

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