Photo: Stefano Cagnoni
Restell: “The effort to push over the NHS in recent years has, it seems, come from the government itself.”
“Deliberate underfunding” of health and care services by the Treasury is creating “great hardship for the people of this country and putting huge pressure on staff,” MiP chief executive Jon Restell told MiP’s Member’s Summit on 6 November.
In his opening speech to delegates, Restell promised that MiP “will not stop banging the drum on funding for both NHS and social care” and warned that it was a “betrayal of the public” to pretend that services could be improved by “great management and efficiencies alone”.
Referring to Chancellor Phillip Hammond’s remarks, made during his budget speech on 29 October, that “it’s time for the public sector to stop being pushovers”, Restell said: “How very dare he! Not only are our members not pushovers, but the effort to push over the NHS in recent years has, it seems, come from the government itself.”
He said the Treasury had “wholly misjudged” the growth in demand for services and the extent to which it could be met by efficiencies rather than better funding. “And the Treasury reckoned without the Lansley reforms which – and we will not stop saying this – cost so much money and lost so many good people from public service, making the funding squeeze much, much worse.”
Restell highlighted the finding of a recent MiP members’ survey that managers believe social care and mental health services have the most urgent funding shortfalls.
“Parents and carers are increasingly experiencing a system designed to keep them out rather than give them the support they need,” he said. “This is not what public services should be like in the world’s fifth largest economy.”
The survey also found that MiP members believe personal taxation is the only credible way to fund health and care services in the long term. “They know you can’t have Scandinavian-level services paid for by a US tax base,” Restell said, “but where is the honest debate on this from politicians?”
Although underfunding has “failed to push the NHS over”, the workforce have borne the brunt of the policy through attacks on pay, cuts in infrastructure and support jobs, and damage to careers and personal wellbeing, Restell warned.
“You demonstrated magnificently that, whatever Phillip Hammond might think, you and your colleagues are not pushovers,” he said. “But the magnificent effort of recent years cannot be sustained forever.”
This summer’s three-year pay deals were “just the start”, he explained. “They end the destructive pay policy, but they don’t restore what has been lost. We now need a decade of investment in pay and conditions for NHS staff.
“This investment must be mirrored by an unprecedented investment in the pay of social care staff, the neglect of whom as a workforce is a national disgrace,” he added.