Government Minister Confronted Over Health Service Staff Reductions

A government minister has been grilled by Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner over plans to cut staff in the NHS.

Zeichner believes that the government and NHS authorities need to significantly rethink their policies with regard to staffing.

In particular, the Member of Parliament is concerned about the decision of Monitor and the NHS Trust Development Authority to reduce staffing in order to save money.

According to reports, the staffing order is contained in a letter Monitor and the TDA sent to every one of the 241 NHS trusts they supervise, which outlined the requisite measures intended to balance the NHS books.

This has certainly been a contentious decision, with many people believing that it is not only disrespectful and destructive for NHS staff, but will also ensure that the quality of service delivered is unsatisfactory.

Yet defenders of the scheme point to the fact that the NHS is expected to run up a deficit of around £2 billion by the end of this year, and the government has already demanded efficiency savings of £22 billion by the end of this decade.

Zeichner spoke in the House of Commons over the matter, and particularly made reference to Addenbrooke’s hospital, which is located within his Cambridgeshire constituency.

The Labour party politician suggested that the existing situation in the NHS is extremely serious and that government policy had been inadequate and even damaging.

“Addenbrooke’s, is one of the trusts with the most challenging deficits. Today, it is urging people not to attend accident and emergency, which it explains by saying that it is seeing more and more frail, elderly patients. We have a crisis in social care and health funding in Cambridgeshire. How can it possibly help hard-pressed staff at Addenbrooke’s to hear the instruction that numbers should be cut? Will the Minister assure me, patients and staff in Cambridgeshire that that diktat will be withdrawn?”

Responding to the accusations and questions of the Labour member, MP Ben Gummer, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Department of Health, indicated that it was impossible for him to provide the issuances that Zeichner sought.

“The important thing is to make sure that we channel money right to the frontline, which means doing so in his hospital, as in others,” he said. “It will sometimes mean finding efficiencies in individual trusts and commissioning groups, and making sure that the money is rediverted. I should say to the hon. Gentleman the problems at Addenbrooke’s go much further than A&E. The hospital is in special measures and there is much to put right. I am confident that will be managed, under the stewardship of the new chief executive, who has proven himself to be excellent.”

Cambridge University Hospitals (CUH), the trust which runs Addenbrooke’s and the Rosie Hospitals, is currently facing absolutely catastrophic financial difficulties.

The trust is one of many in the red at present, with CUH currently spending in excess of £1 million per per week more than its earns, with a predicted deficit of £60 million expected to be accumulated by the end of the fiscal year.

This issue is indicative of broader problems in the NHS, and it is increasingly clear that radical action and probably extra funding will be needed in the very foreseeable future.

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