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Cartoon by Elaine Mallon

NHS bosses wield the axe to vital services

By a Unison member

NHS Tayside needs to make £58m of savings between now and next April. It doesn’t stop there because it is committed to a package of savings totalling £214m over the next 5 years. The admissions unit in Angus will be closed by the end of January, with all staff and patients relocating to Dundee. The out of hours service for mental health in Perth is to do likewise. The centralisation of services on the Carseview site in Dundee means scarce medical resources – junior doctors in particular- can be shared.

The inability of the health board to recruit enough junior doctors to mental health, due to cost, means that services are considered unsafe. However, the so called contingency plan looks likely to become a permanent solution with chronic shortages of required medical staff unlikely to improve with money so tight across the health authority.

PFI

Ironically, despite these measures the health board will have to continue paying for some of these services as they were previously located in hospitals paid for under PFI contracts. Indeed the ward in Angus is barely 4 years old, in a hospital that is leased until 2042.

This highlights some of the contradictory funding arrangements in the NHS, whereby savings require to be made so privately built hospitals can be paid for despite not being used to full capacity.

The loss of in-patient beds to Angus is a major attack on the principle of a service free at the point of need, and will not go without protest.

Similar proposals were discussed last year but shelved after significant local opposition emerged. By no means is this the end of the matter. NHS Tayside will have to make similar decisions throughout this huge period of transformation as a decline in funding is managed across an already over- stretched service.

The need for intervention from central government is apparent but absent. The SNP are carrying out austerity across Scotland’s health service, making a mockery of their claims at being “anti-austerity”.

In echoes of Theresa May’s response to the dreadful situation facing NHS England, health boards are simply left to get on with it. It’s time to build a united movement of NHS trade unions and communities for a fully-funded NHS and an end to cuts.