Magazine article Public Finance

Minister Adopts Softer Tone over NHS Reforms

Magazine article Public Finance

Minister Adopts Softer Tone over NHS Reforms

Article excerpt

NHS reform minister Andy Burnham used his first speech since Prime Minister Tony Blair's resignation to strike a more conciliatory tone towards beleaguered NHS staff.

'It's not a cause for celebration if you meet a new target or initiative and the end result is that staff collapse exhausted over the finish line,' Burnham told a conference on May 15.

'There has been a lot of change in the NHS - some would say too much - and that has unsettled staff. . . It's fair to say NHS staff overall don't feel the same sense of achievement as we do when we look at progress'.

Burnham was speaking at a Social Market Foundation seminar on the future direction of the NHS.

'We need to get out more and listen to NHS staff and understand what it has been like to have been in the service through this period of change,' he said. 'It is true that changes passed two or three years ago are currently only biting at the very point at which politicians have moved on and are thinking about something else.'

A spokesman for the public services union Unison told Public Finance: 'Friendly speeches and reaching out to health staff is always to be welcomed, but what would be almost uniformly appreciated in the NHS would be a meaningful and clear change in policy direction on a number of fronts.'

He added that morale had been at rock bottom' for the last couple of years. "There are many reasons for this, including poor pay settlements that have effectively cut staff wages in real terms; endless and pointless reform; and creeping marketisation, which has sucked away resources from frontline patient care. …

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