NHS workers have been “betrayed” by the Conservative party following a catalogue of “broken promises” over the past five years, the general secretary of Unison has claimed in his keynote address at the union’s annual healthcare conference.
In a highly critical speech that warned members against voting Conservative in the general election, Dave Prentis claimed the Tories had failed on a number of commitments, including no cuts to frontline services, a promise not to reorganise the NHS and a target to boost the health visiting workforce by 4,200.
“Since 2010 we’ve seen years of pay freezes and NHS workers’ wages being held down as they paid the price for austerity”
Speaking in Liverpool today, the general secretary said the Conservative party had in the past few years placed the health service in a “financial straitjacket”, leaving the NHS “creaking at the seams” and held together only by the “valiant” efforts of health workers.
This was despite the party’s promise to increase spending on health in real terms every year, said Mr Prentis, who questioned how the Tories’ new commitment to providing an extra £8bn for the NHS by 2020 would be realised.
The union leader added that the Health and Social Care Act – introduced under the coaltion government two years ago – had proven to be “the most expensive re-organisation ever” at the cost of £3bn. He claimed the money could have instead been used for providing health workers with a “decent” pay rise.
Meanwhile, the government’s commitment to creating 4,200 extra health visitors by the end of March this year was a “tangible promise, easy enough to measure, but broken all the same”, said Mr Prentis.
“David Cameron and his government of badly broken promises has been a nothing short of betrayal of health staff, patients and the public”
As reported by Nursing Times last month, the latest workforce figures from the Department of Health at the time indicated that the government would narrowly miss its goal, which it set in 2010 following a pre-election pledge by David Cameron in 2008. Official figures on the size of the health visiting workforce will be available in three months’ time.
“This government promised us that change would be ‘driven by the wishes and needs of NHS professionals and patients’, but health staff have never felt more demoralised,” Mr Prentis told delegates.
“Since 2010 we’ve seen years of pay freezes and NHS workers’ wages being held down as they paid the price for austerity, while the bankers who helped cause the global crash resumed their business as usual a long time ago,” he added.
He praised members for going on strike over NHS pay during the past 12 months, but warned that similar action could be required again if the Conservatives were to come into power following the general election on 7 May.
“Think what five more years of the Conservatives, their broken promises and their harsh spending cuts will mean for the NHS, for patients, for local services, for the disadvantaged, for ordinary families everywhere,” said Mr Prentis.
“David Cameron and his government of badly broken promises has been a nothing short of betrayal of health staff, patients and the public. Let’s not let them have another five years to wreak yet more havoc,” he added.