Front-Line Services Already Feeling The Pressure Of Economic Crisis

Redundancies, recruitment freezes and service cutbacks – these are the early signs of the impact the economic crisis is having on the UK's health service, according to a British Medical Association (BMA) survey of doctors released.

BMA research shows that, despite reassurances that front-line services will be protected, many NHS organisations are already taking actions which could have devastating and long-lasting consequences for the NHS.

The survey of local negotiating committee (LNC) chairs found:
  • Around one in four respondents (24%) said redundancies were planned in their organisation. Redundancies planned are for the most part non-clinical and overwhelmingly non-medical
  • Almost two thirds of respondents (62%) said that there was a freeze on recruitment. Seventy per cent of respondents reporting a freeze indicated that it covered medical posts and 80% that it applied to nursing posts
  • Just over half (55%) of those with no explicit freeze indicated that there were unfilled vacancies
  • Nearly three quarters of respondents (72%) indicated that clinical service or infrastructure developments were being postponed for financial reasons and two in five that access to treatments or therapies was being limited
  • Just under half (45%) of responding LNCs were being consulted on cost and efficiency savings. The amount of savings being sought varied considerably around an average of just under 6%
Commenting on the research, Dr Hamish Meldrum, Chairman of Council at the BMA, said: "Whilst we accept that difficult decisions need to be taken in this tight financial climate, there is a real danger that cutting back on health now will have a long-lasting impact on our ability to maintain high-quality, comprehensive and universal care in the future.

"Despite the government’s best assurances that front-line services will be protected, our data show that cuts are already being planned or becoming reality and that these will have an impact on doctors’ ability to care for their patients.

"Even changes to back-room functions or administrative processes have consequences for front-line staff who, in many cases, may have to pick up the work themselves; this means less time for patients."


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