Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Crisis over Staff Threatens Brown's NHS Revolution

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Crisis over Staff Threatens Brown's NHS Revolution

Article excerpt


TONY BLAIR and Gordon Brown today faced a major obstacle to their ambitious and expensive plans to reform the NHS - a huge shortage of staff.

The Government yesterday promised to recruit 15,000 extra GPs and doctors, 35,000 more nurses and 30,000 other staff. But health service workers and their unions, already angry over low pay, say their jobs will be made even more unattractive by rises in National Insurance contributions.

Figures this week showed the number of jobless is at a 27-year low, and health experts today voiced grave doubts as to how the vacancies proclaimed by Health Secretary Alan Milburn could be filled.

That was only one of a series of complaints now mushrooming around the Budget and its [pound]7billion-plus in tax rises.

Derek Wanless, the key figure behind the plan for huge increases in NHS spending, repeated his concerns about whether the service can change in the way it needs to, in order to make the billions in extra cash produce results.

The former chief executive of NatWest said the future of the NHS was clouded by "uncertainty", and that ministers faced a heavy challenge-to make their plans work.

"There is potentially a huge problem from a political point of view about being seen to deliver," he told The Times. Mr Wanless also warned it would be foolish to pour money into the NHS "too fast" as it could lead to higher prices across the health system.

Health service and town hall employers issued their own warnings that the Budget would push up their National Insurance bills by as much as [pound]500million a year. And others, from the CBI to the big unions, were also voicing doubts.

Mr Blair was today continuing his effort to sell the Budget to the voters-He and Mr Brown hit problems yesterday when they were challenged by a consultant at the Chelsea and Westminster hospital over the increases in NI contributions for health workers and the NHS itself, which will have to pay an extra [pound]200 million a year.

Accident and emergency specialist Peta Longstaff told the Chancellor, in the full glare of TV cameras: "It sounds a bit of an own goal if we're paying for our own service. …

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