TUC to attack NHS reforms

11-09-2006

Government plans to reform the national health service are set to come under attack during this week's annual Trades Union Congress (TUC) conference in Brighton.

Union leaders are particularly incensed at plans to increase the role of the private sector in delivering healthcare services.

Britain's largest union, Unison, is today expected to announce the result of a strike ballot of nearly 1,000 health service workers employed by NHS Logistics, the hospital supplies organisation whose work is set to be outsourced to German company DEL.

The union claims that the changes are likely to undermine services and will not provide value for money. It is expected to announce that members have voted in favour of industrial action, which would affect the delivery of uniforms and other equipment to hospitals and doctors' surgeries.

Unison has also warned that planned job cuts in the NHS will also undermine health services, with delegates at the TUC conference expected to approve a series of protests and rallies as part of a nationwide campaign against government reforms.

Commenting on the eve of the conference yesterday, Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: "The NHS is under threat in a very insidious way from within the very party that created it."

"This will determine whether Labour wins a fourth term or blows it," he added.

Defending plans to increase the role of the private sector in the NHS, health secretary Patricia Hewitt told GMTV that outside providers had helped to "dramatically" reduce waiting times through the establishment of independent treatment centres.

Meanwhile, further public sector reforms planned by the government are set to come under fire from unions this week.

The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), Britain's largest civil service union, warned yesterday that it was within weeks of consulting its members on the desirability of a national strike over pay and privatisation in the public sector.

"Unless the government move to address these problems seriously in the next few weeks, then the possibility of a second national civil service-wide strike will become a reality," said Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS, which held a similar nationwide strike back in 2004.


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