The NHS is suffering potentially devastating cuts to jobs and patient services under the government’s austerity drive, the British Medical Association (BMA) has warned.
The BMA has found thousands of doctors and nurses face being made redundant or not replaced if they leave, while many hospitals have had to cut treatments.
The news comes despite the coalition having warned the health service would not face the same level of cuts as other areas of government.
A survey for the BMA of 361 doctors found 43% said there was a freeze on recruiting doctors and nurses at their trust. A further 40% said patient treatments, including varicose vein operations and blood tests, were being rationed.
Nearly one-quarter of those surveyed said their trust was planning to make workers redundant. Although the majority of these would not affect front-line staff, the union warned cuts to administrative workers could force doctors and nurses to spend more time on these duties and less time with patients, the Daily Telegraph has reported.
Hamish Meldrum, the chairman of the BMA, said: “While we accept that difficult decisions need to be taken in this tight financial climate, there is a real danger that cutting back on health now will have a long-lasting impact on our ability to maintain high-quality, comprehensive and universal care in the future.”
The Royal College of Nursing said earlier this year that about 5,600 jobs were under threat across 26 hospital trusts. In a “worst case scenario”, the true figure could be as high as 30,000, it said.
A spokesman for the Department of Health said: “Alongside all the public services, the NHS will need to deliver significant savings over the coming years.
“The department is very clear that savings should be implemented in a way that does not affect the quality of services, and the secretary of state has been very clear that every penny saved will be reinvested back into patient care.”