Nursing boss hits out at NHS reform plans during speech at King’s Lynn hospital

The chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing criticised government plans to overhaul the way the NHS works during a visit to a Norfolk hospital.

Dr Peter Carter told nurses at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in King's Lynn, that the health and social care bill currently making its way through parliament will not be the remedy in modernising the NHS.

Under the plans, GPs and other clinicians will be given much more responsibility for spending the budget and it has been dubbed one of the most radical plans in the history of the health service.

But, despite 1,000 amendments to the bill, there are still a host of health groups who oppose the plans – including the Royal College of Nursing.

'The bill has been a huge distraction to what we should have been doing which is focusing on making this great NHS of ours working well,' Mr Carter told NHS staff on Thursday.

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'We don't believe this bill has been properly thought through and it never needed to happen in the first place.

'In terms of bills passing through parliament, this is the biggest piece of legislation ever to have come before Westminster parliament on any subject.

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'But what has it had? It has had 1,000 amendments. By any standard you would say anything that was subject to 1,000 amendments must be flawed from the beginning.

'I believe the NHS has to change and modernise but this bill will not be the remedy. The only way to do it is to get local trusts, such as this trust, social services and housing and other partners working together.'

He later added: 'One of my criticisms of the current government is that it keeps portraying the NHS as a broken system when it is not.

'It is a system under huge strains and pressures and money is tight.'

The NHS reforms are also partly designed to encourage greater involvement from the private sector and charities.

Mr Carter continued: 'We are not afraid of competition. If someone comes along and says they can do this faster, cheaper, better and to a higher quality of standard then why should we be frightened of that?

'But our fear is that price will become the key factor when issuing contracts and not quality. Cheap care is poor care and poor care tends to be expensive which is a false economy.'

He added: 'I don't think there is any denying this bill will become law but we will always have reservations on this bill.

'In a few years' time, I believe it will become clear it was flawed. It is just a shame we will have to wait so long for the government to find this out.'

Mr Carter also said he was impressed with what he saw during his tour of the King's Lynn-based hospital, in particular the critical care and the day surgery units.

He said: 'I think it's a really good hospital. In large hospitals with hundreds of patients coming along every day, there will be times when things don't quite go right.

'But the critical mass of what is happening here is good. I have no doubts about that. I have also had nurse after nurse, often alone with me, telling me they love their job which is another great sign.'

He added: 'I know this trust won't be without its problems or tensions but I can guarantee people should feel confident about coming here because it is a really good hospital.'

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