Nursing organisations expressed dismay at the government drive to implement its NHS changes – warning of a “period of instability”. Change would “soak up the energy” of the NHS and its staff, said the Royal College of Midwives, while the Royal College of Nursing said the “stakes could not be higher”. RCM general secretary Cathy Warwick said it was “profoundly incompatible” for maternity services to deal with increasing demands, the NHS to find massive efficiency savings and the service to make the changes. She said: “The Bill leaves us in the dark about what the Government’s proposed maternity networks will look like. I strongly support this idea in theory but we remain short on detail and this Bill offers nothing that makes this any clearer. “We also remain very disappointed that the Government did a u-turn on their own policy to keep commissioning of maternity services outside of the control of GP consortia. “None the less, we will be working with the Government to ensure that GP commissioning delivers good quality and safe care for women.”
The RCN warned of “fragmentation” leading to big variations in service and reduced collaboration. Chief executive Dr Peter Carter said: “The stakes could not be higher for this substantial Bill. Nursing staff and other health workers have worked tirelessly to deliver improvements to the NHS over the past decade. “Patients have benefited from decreased waiting times, better cancer and cardiac outcomes, improved access and flexibility of services, as well as more clinical staff. “It will be very important that none of the recent improvements to the NHS are placed in jeopardy as a result of these reforms.” The Foundation Trust watchdog is to get a powerful new role in the coalition government’s proposed new style NHS, it emerged. Monitor will gain the status of independent economic regulator, similar to Ofcom, which supervises the telephone market and a number of other bodies. Health secretary Andrew Lansley insisted this would create a “level playing field” in which NHS providers would compete successfully against private providers. He insisted there would be no favours for private companies.
Monitor currently regulates Foundation Trusts and the government expects all NHS providers to attain this status. Its new powers would mean it licenses all providers taking NHS cash, it would set prices, “promote” competition and support “service continuity”. Its new role is included in the Health and Social Care Bill published yesterday. Mr Lansley insisted the move to GP commissioning would save £5 billion in management costs a year by 2015 – allowing money to be ploughed into professional jobs. He insisted: “This is the start of a cultural shift to a patient-centred NHS. The proposals set out today in the Health and Social Care Bill will strengthen the NHS for the future and make the changes that are needed for vital modernisation to put more patients and NHS staff in control.”