Iain Duncan Smith’s brutal and bungled welfare reforms could be set to the plunge the NHS into chaos as nurses and doctors are paid huge sums to carry out benefit-slashing assessments instead of working in our chronically understaffed hospitals.
Last year the Royal College of Nusring warned that a lack of senior nurses in the NHS is putting patient care at risk. This followed a report a year earlier from the Department of Health funded Centre for Workplace Intelligence which found that the NHS will face a shortfall of 47,545 nurses by 2016. It is not just Tory cost cutting set to cause this crisis in the NHS, but a lack of suitably qualified homegrown nurses. Last year The Guardian reported that the shortage is already so acute that one in five nurses employed between 2013/14 had to be recruited from overseas.
US firm Maximus are the company brought in to replace Atos to carry out the notorious Work Capability Assessment, the crude computer based test designed to strip benefits from out of work sick and disabled people. Every one of these assessments must be carried out by a qualified healthcare professional with at least two years clinical experience In an attempt to meet their target of one million benefit assessments a year., the company are currently undertaking a huge recruitment exercise promising nurses the chance to “work within the exciting and challenging area of Disability Assessment”. What they mean is bastards wanted to cut people’s benefits by declaring them fit for work on the flimsiest of evidence.
In an attempt to bribe healthcare workers to carry out this grubby malpractice, Maximus are offering a considerably better salary than similarly qualified nurses would be paid in the NHS. A salary, it should be remembered, that is ultimately funded by the tax payer. This government would rather pay healthcare workers to bully people off benefits rather than deal with the staffing crisis in the NHS.
Maximus are not the only ones who are desperately trying to lure qualified healthcare professionals away from the NHS. Whilst the notorious Atos will soon no longer carry health tests for out of work benefits, they too are recruiting nurses and other healthcare professionals to carry out disability assessments for the new Personal Indepence Payments (PIP) – the replacement for Disability Living Allowance which pays for the costs of living with a disability such as care, transport or specialist equipment. Alongside Capita, Atos will be responsible for implementing the Tory policy to strip this benefit from a fifth of disabled people. Both Atos and Capita have large scale recruitment operations underway. Atos also use paramedics to carry out PIP assessments. Last year health bosses warned they are having to recruit paramedics from Poland due to a national shortage estimated to be around 3000.
It is unclear how many nurses and other healthcare professionals are currently working on DWP contracts to stop people’s benefits instead of in hospitals where they are so badly needed, but it is likely to run to several thousand. Minister for Murdering Disabled People Mark Harper dodged the question of how many staff Maximus are planning to recruit when he appeared before the Work and Pensions Committee this week. Every last one of these so-called healthcare professionals, which also includes doctors, is breaching the fundamental medical principle of first do no harm. But with nurses in the NHS facing pay squeezes and increased workloads, there will always be some happy to throw medical ethics out of the window and use their talents to harm not heal.
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