Headlines: May 27th, 2010

A leading public service union has spoken out against plans to do away with Strategic Health Authorities by April 2012. Unison is arguing that the authorities are essential in tackling a number of national issues, including the MRSA bug. The union is also worried about plans to open the NHS to increased private sector involvement.

Reacting to the plan to scrap the 10 Strategic Authorities covering England, Karen Jennings, Unison’s Head of Health said it was very concerned. “SHAs play a vital role in making sure that there are no shortfalls or gaps in health care provision across a region and nationally and in overseeing standards,” she said.

Ms Jennings added that the SHAs were vital to Social Partnership on workforce matters, education and training and for ensuring coordination across the NHS of best practice in tackling issues such as MRSA and the swine flu pandemic. She said cities like London would still need a strategic overview and outcomes would still need to be monitored. With that in mind she predicted that the Treasury would be forced to reinvent the authorities as it could not allow hundreds of health trusts to function without financial scrutiny.

“We are calling on the Government to explain how commissioning and monitoring and non-Foundation Trusts will be co-ordinated without the huge expansion of another quango,” she said. The union has also raised concerns over the prospect of greater private sector involvement in the NHS, branding them a red herring that would not save money but have costly implications for patients.