Page last updated at 07:32 GMT, Thursday, 3 September 2009 08:32 UK

NHS workforce cuts plan rejected

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O'Brien - No return to understaffed NHS

The government says it has rejected advice from management consultants to cut the NHS workforce in England by 10% over the next five years.

The plans to close 137,000 clinical and admin posts were proposed by McKinsey and Company to save £20bn by 2014.

The consultants also said a recruitment freeze and early retirement programme should be established, the Health Service Journal reported.

But the Department of Health said many services needed more staff, not fewer.

Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley said the government needed to be honest about its position on the NHS.

"One minute Labour ministers are going out telling the public they're going to protect the NHS, the next they're spending taxpayers' money on management consultants who are planning to cut 10% of the staff of the NHS," he said.

The health service budget is due to rise by more than 5% each year until 2011.

But after that, many predict it will see a cut in real terms.

Recruitment freeze

Department of Health officials invited consultants to come up with proposals for how savings could be made and McKinsey responded by proposing drastic cuts.

If implemented, these short-sighted proposals would have been disastrous
Dr Mark Porter, of the British Medical Association

As well as the staff cuts, the consultants said a recruitment freeze should start within two years and medical school places might have to be reduced.

It said savings of up to £3bn a year could be made by improving staff productivity, while nearly £2bn could be saved on external contracts in areas such as waste and food.

Health minister Mike O'Brien said: "Ministers have rejected the suggested proposals in the McKinsey report and there are no plans to adopt these proposals in the future.

"The government does not believe the right answer to improving the NHS now or in the future is to cut the NHS workforce. In core frontline services like maternity, nursing and primary care we need more staff rather than fewer."

Dr Mark Porter, of the British Medical Association, said: "If implemented, these short-sighted proposals would have been disastrous.

"We welcome the commitment given by the government that it has rejected them and does not see workforce cuts as the solution to the challenges facing the NHS."

'More productive'

Karen Jennings, head of health at Unison, said: "The McKinsey report comes up with the same old formulaic answers and their much-repeated mantra of job cuts as the answer to NHS savings.

"There is no room for complacency in the NHS. We must constantly look for new ways to be efficient and to deliver better patient care."

FROM THE TODAY PROGRAMME

John Appleby, chief economist at The King's Fund, an independent health research group, told BBC Radio 5 live that changes were needed.

"I don't really see the necessity for actually cutting jobs, but I certainly do see the necessity for employees and the NHS overall to find new ways of working, being more productive, being more efficient," he said.

Sir Gerry Robinson, the businessman who presented a BBC series about the NHS, said he saw an "enormous amount of waste" and jobs should go.

He added he was "infuriated" by yet another report, which cost a lot of money and "tells you the obvious".

"You wonder at the mindset behind getting a report like that and then saying because it is not politically acceptable, we are not actually going to do anything with it," he told Radio 4's Today.

"It's infuriating, the way the government handles the NHS and the way the opposition handles the game that gets played."

graph: nhs staff 1997-2008



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