Unions warn that failure to speed up NHS reform could lead to complete collapse of staff morale

Health unions have warned the government of a “complete collapse of morale” in the health service, should the speed of NHS reform remained unchecked.

A delegation led by the TUC met health secretary Patricia Hewitt earlier this week to express concerns about the “creeping privatisation” of the service, the pace of change and the lack of consultation.

The crisis talks came as health service union Unison threatened strike action over the government’s plans to privatise the NHS Logistics agency.

The health unions have also committed to a major joint campaign to press home the problems faced by their members.

“It’s clear that there will be no let up in the pace and direction of change in the NHS,” said Unison’s head of health, Karen Jennings, after the meeting.

“So over the summer we will be issuing some strong challenges to the government over its policies – and that will include the possibility of industrial action.”

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said Hewitt had recognised that present consultation arrangements needed to be reviewed urgently.

“Health unions support reform that delivers better patient care. But too many current changes seem to be driven by an ideological preference for the private sector and will not benefit patients.

“The government’s relentless changes and preference for privatisation is causing growing frustration among staff who want the NHS to succeed, but think their views have not been taken into account,” he added.

The joint campaign of health unions will include fringe meetings at the TUC and Labour Party conferences in September. Unions are also considering a lobby of parliament, and regional and national demonstrations.

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