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Labour calls for £500m emergency ‘winter bailout fund’ for NHS

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Labour will call for the government to commit a £500m “winter bailout fund” for the NHS over the coming months.

Jonathan Ashworth, the Shadow Health Secretary, says the money is needed to increase capacity in struggling hospitals and pay for extra staff as the NHS faces the worst winter on record.

He also said it was Labour’s “ambition” to return NHS funding increases to the same level as during the 1997-2010 Labour governments.

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Mr Ashworth claims that Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, and Theresa May have failed to provide an adequate plan to how the NHS is preparing, for what is expected to be, the worst winter on record for the health and social care service. 

Janet Davies, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the RCN, said:

“Any bailout money this winter should be used to bolster frontline staff and help ensure safe patient care. Having the right number of nurses is key to treating people effectively and safely.

“Yet too many hospitals are chronically short of nursing staff. As demand increases over the winter months,  it’s patients who will pay the price unless something is done.

“Properly funding the NHS is a political choice – it should not reach the stage where a last-minute bailout is required to keep people safe.”

The Shadow Health Secretary will use a speech to the Labour party conference today to call for the extra funding.

Education

£200 million NHS training budget could be lost to the private sector

Around a third of NHS trusts are paying apprentices just £3.90 per hour – the statutory minimum rate.

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NHS hospital corridor

Money paid by NHS trusts is now being “clawed back by the government”.

More than £200m is lying unused by cash-strapped health trusts in England because of restrictions in the Government’s apprenticeship levy scheme.

The restrictions mean that money from the levy can only be used to fund training costs and not salaries – meaning already cash-strapped organisations are unable to recruit additional staff.

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Around a third of NHS trusts are paying apprentices just £3.90 per hour – the statutory minimum rate.

According to the UNISON report, It Doesn’t Add Up, 79% of the levy money is yet to be used and warns that if this trend continues substantial NHS funding will be lost.

Levy money not spent after two years is reallocated to a central Government pot and used to subsidise apprenticeships for smaller employers – who don’t have to pay into the levy. This means cash from NHS budgets being diverted into the private sector.

Millions sat idle while there are 100,000 vacancies.

UNISON is now calling for the Government to change the rules so levy funding can also be spent on apprentice salaries and the wages of staff employed to cover for apprentices when they are training.

They have also suggested that the money could be used to fund a new extensive apprenticeship programme across the entire NHS for nursing and all the other health professions experiencing shortages.

Sara Gorton, Head of Health at UNISON, said; “Hundreds of millions of pounds are sitting idle at a time when budgets are stretched and there are 100,000 vacancies across the NHS,”.

“There are real concerns about the standard of training apprentices receive, with many carrying out administrative and clinical support roles for peanuts. Ministers must reform the system to ensure money allocated to the health service stays within the NHS and invest properly to ensure apprenticeships play a full role in solving the growing staffing crisis.”

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Health Politics

Bill calling for safer staffing legislation put before Parliament

There are now 43,671 vacant nursing posts throughout the NHS in England alone.

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Maria Caulfield

The Bill will seek to “establish legally enforceable nursing staffing levels in the NHS in England.”

Maria Caulfield, Conservative MP for Lewes, nurse and member of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), today brought a Bill designed “to establish legally enforceable nursing staffing levels in the NHS in England.”

The Bill comes as nursing vacancy rates hit a record high with 43,671 empty nursing posts in the NHS in England alone – leaving 12% of full-time nursing posts unfilled.

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In a report released today titled ‘Standing up for patient and public safety’, the RCN highlights the impact the nursing staffing crisis is having on patient safety.

Scotland recently secured new legislation on safe staffing and a nurse staffing law was introduced in Wales in 2016.

‘No one is responsible and no one is accountable’.

Ms Cauldfield said; “There is increasing evidence that the right number of qualified nurses can improve patient outcomes in terms of mortality, morbidity and quality of care and that conversely, an insufficient number of nurses can have a potentially life-threatening effect for patients.”

Presenting the primary aim of the Bill as; “to make the Government accountable for nursing levels in England, as currently no one is accountable for nursing levels in England and that is why we have such a high nursing vacancy rate.”

Before adding that the other aims of the Bill were ensuring the NHS has “a fully costed workforce strategy and nursing numbers” alongside ensuring training and development for nurses throughout their career.

Cauldfield controversially voted against scrapping the pay cap for NHS workers in 2017.

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