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More Pressure on Hewitt

8th May 2006

05042006_baby_ward.jpgThe Royal College of Midwives (RCM) and the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) were surveyed ahead of the RCM's annual conference this week; they have urged ministers to tackle NHS funding issues and "rebuild trust" with staff.

Members were concerned about recruitment freezes and staff cuts, shrinking maternity budgets, plus increased waiting times for physiotherapy treatment.

The findings will be given to Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt on Wednesday, when the minister will be attending the RCM's annual conference in Torquay, Devon. The organisation will tell her deficits make it harder to implement government policies. 

Dame Karlene Davis, RCM general secretary, said the government manifesto commitments on choice for women on births and one-to-one support in pregnancy were becoming harder to implement. Dame Davis said that members have embraced changes such as shifting services closer to where patients and service users live and providing a more diverse range of services, adding that funding deficits are making it harder to implement these policies in practice. Freezing recruitment and further reducing midwives' numbers, was a "knee-jerk reaction", she said.

Lesley Mercer, CSP director of employment relations, said that morale is low 'and this cannot be good for patient care'. Their survey showed physiotherapy staff, especially those in England, were finding it difficult to provide the care patients needed in the current funding climate.

Mercer added that hundreds of newly-qualified physiotherapy graduates who could be putting their skills to good use in the NHS are finding themselves frozen out of a career in the health service; she urged urgent action to address workforce issues and win back the confidence of NHS staff.

A spokesman for the Department of Health said they had invested £100m in maternity services since 2001, leading to a sharp increase in full-time midwives, better pay and conditions, and a large number of students signing up for the profession. The department said that while the CSP survey found 66% of organisations reported their employer was heading for an overspend, DoH figures showed that less than a quarter of trusts were in deficit and that 53% of the deficit was in 7% of the trusts.

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