Hunt: reforms will cost up to £1.6bn
Union leaders have criticised the government after it emerged that the controversial NHS reforms are to cost £300m more than previously thought.
Unison accused ministers of “wasting money” after the health secretary admitted that implementing the Health and Social Care Act is now expected to cost the taxpayer between £1.5bn and £1.6bn.
The cost of rolling out the reforms was initially thought to be between £1.2bn and £1.3bn, Jeremy Hunt said in a written statement to the House of Commons.
The news comes as the Department of Health’s annual accounts for 2011 to 2012 showed that 28,000 NHS jobs were lost in just one year.
The number of people employed by the health service fell by 2.55 per cent between 2011 to 2012, from 1,125,877 to 1,097,180.
Christina McAnea, Unison’s head of health, said: “This is an absolute disgrace. Taxpayers have every right to be furious that government is wasting more money on these disastrous, unnecessary changes to our NHS instead of on treating patients and employing more nurses.
“£1.5 bn to £1.6bn is an obscene amount of money to spend on a reorganisation and the government should not be spending this money when the NHS is cutting back on patient care, on staff and on their pay and conditions.”
The DH’s annual accounts state that the department “met all of its financial duties for the year”.
It said that the NHS ended the year with a “very strong financial performance” achieving an overall surplus of £2bn.
The accounts show that overall revenue expenditure for the DH increased by 2.9 per cent to £101.6bn - up from £100.3bn in 2010 to 2011.
The report states that spending on frontline services for patients increased in real terms by 1 per cent and the department made significant savings in administration costs.
Mark Porter, chair of council at the British Medical Association, said the cost rise for the implementation of the act was “galling”.
“The huge costs of this largely unnecessary reorganisation are particularly galling given that patient services are being rationed,” he said.
“It is difficult to believe that the changes will generate cumulative savings of £5.5 billion. While some costs have been reduced through reductions in administrative spending, these are unlikely to be sustainable on the same scale in the longer term.”
A DH spokeswoman said: “These are one-off costs. By investing in these changes we will be able to reduce unnecessary bureaucracy and free up extra resources - £5.5bn during this Parliament and £1.5bn every year thereafter - for patient care.
“There are more clinical staff working in the NHS than there were in May 2010, including nearly 3,500 more doctors, and over 900 extra midwives. And the number of staff delivering NHS services in the community is estimated to have risen by 25,000 in recent years. In contrast, the number of admin staff has fallen by over 18,000. This is creating savings that will help protect the NHS for future generations.”