Health workers, nurses and their unions have vowed to fight tooth and nail to save the NHS from austerity measures imposed by the UK government and European Union.
Theresa May’s government has called for a 30 per cent pay rise, and is planning to increase NHS charges by 1.5 per cent, or $6.60, by 2019.
The government has also announced a raft of new powers for hospitals, such as the right to charge extra for maternity care and free prescriptions for basic treatments such as contraception.
“It is a very serious crisis,” said the chief executive of NHS Employers, Dr Simon Pacey, adding that the government’s plans to raise the minimum wage to £8 an hour would be devastating for businesses.
“I think it’s going to be very difficult for any business to survive in this climate.”
“We’re already seeing the impacts of these cuts, with the hospitals and our hospitals are having to close down,” said Dr Pacey.
“The government are taking the most radical measures they can and we are going to fight them tooth and neck to keep this NHS functioning.”
The NHS has seen a 10 per cent rise in staff turnover in the past year, with most staff coming from private sector jobs.
The cuts are also having an impact on the ability of the NHS to cope with the growing demand for medical care.
“We need to get the NHS back on track, not only in the short term, but also in the long term,” said Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
“In the short run, we have got to do a bit more, but we can’t do too much at this point.”
The Government’s plan to increase the minimum rate of pay to £9 an hour is due to take effect from the end of 2020, with further increases set to be introduced in 2021.
The plan would also see hospitals able to charge an additional 2 per cent to cover the cost of maternity and child care.
The UK is the first EU member state to impose austerity measures on its NHS.
The move came after it was revealed that the number of people who die on the NHS in England is at its lowest level in 40 years.
The health service currently provides healthcare to 1.2 million people every day.
NHS England has warned that cuts could lead to more than 200,000 deaths by the end, and the government says the figures are “unacceptable”.
The cuts, announced in February, have led to the closure of the Royal London hospital, which houses the country’s first transplant unit, and to the forced closure of three other hospitals.
The Government also announced it would be slashing the number and size of nursing homes in England.
NHS Scotland has also warned that the closures could cause an unprecedented loss of services, with almost 200,00 nurses expected to be cut from the health service in the next year.
The new figures, released by the health department, are likely to further inflame a public anger at the Government over the proposed budget cuts, which could lead the government to call a snap election.