UNISON, the UK's largest union, called for the government's Health and Social Care Bill to be scrapped yesterday (24 August 2011).
The public sector union, which represents more than 1.3 million workers, said the "lethal cocktail of economic uncertainty, spiralling waiting lists and budget deficits means now is the worst possible time to bring in a major, untried and untested reorganisation."
The union has previously criticised aspects of the Health Bill, but it now joins a backlash against NHS reforms in England with the British Medical Association (BMA) also calling for the Health Bill to be withdrawn.
Christina McAnea, Head of Health for UNISON, said: "If the Health and Social Care Bill goes ahead, the outlook for the NHS and patients looks bleak.
"The government's polices have already led to NHS patients waiting longer, often in great pain, for their operations. The Bill will make matters worse by taking the cap off the number of private patients that hospitals are allowed to treat.
"It will be an enormous temptation for cash-strapped hospitals to boost their income by prioritising paying patients, pushing NHS patients even further down the ever-spiralling waiting lists. "
"Now is not the time to bring in this massive, damaging NHS reorganisation."
Unions are also set to discuss the possibility of the first ever NHS-wide walkout if government negotiations over pension reform collapse.
Ms McAnea admitted to the Financial Times that a meeting involving "strike action logistics" would happen should ongoing pension talks fail.
And she also told The Guardian: "There has never been full-scale industrial action in the health service. This is the first time all the groups have come together to talk about it. Industrial action in the NHS could be massive."
Unions representing doctors, nurses, midwives, hospital administers and cleaners are due to meet at UNISON's London headquarters on Thursday.
Pension reform talks between union leaders and government ministers are scheduled to last until October.
Your comments (terms and conditions apply):
"Stability is the most important aspect to be considered at present. As ever, nothing has been thought through by the government and the last one was a prime example! Who in their right mind would encourage patients to generate massive amounts of non-essential activity by introducing walk-in centres?! Strike action should never be an option, however, only patients would lose..." – John King, Cleveland