Is the NHS safe in the coalition government’s hands?
That’s the question many people in England and Wales are asking once again after it was announced that the latest effects of the drastic public sector cuts will mean reductions in frontline ambulance services.
A total of 890 jobs, almost one fifth of the 5,000 staff of London Ambulance Service (LAS), will be cut over the next five years to save £53 million.
LAS said it expected to reduce the number of frontline posts – those responsible for direct patient care – by 560, with a further 330 posts removed from management and support services.
The Chief Executive of LAS, Peter Bradley, says the organisation will seek to avoid compulsory redundancies.
“We are confident that the large majority of posts can be reduced by not filling vacancies. We have an average turnover rate of 7%,” Bradley said.
“As part of our planned response we will be introducing a number of measures to control payroll costs, including tighter control of recruitment and reduced use of agency workers.”
Public sector union Unison described the cuts as, “so deep they may not heal”. And its Regional Organiser, Phil Thompson, said, “If allowed to be carried out they will put at risk the many Londoners who rely on the LAS every day.”
LAS deals with more than 1.5m emergency calls each year, visiting over 1m incidents. Last year the number of call-outs rose by 4.5%.
It is simply not credible to believe that this level of service can be maintained as staffing levels fall. Reducing staff numbers means fewer ambulances on the street and longer waiting times. And London will see an influx of visitors next year for the Olympic Games.
Given the nature of the work of the ambulance service, it is not over-dramatic to suggest that the results of these coalition cuts will be patient deaths.