Nurses are set to quiz Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt about fears of further job losses when she addresses their annual conference on Wednesday.
Ms Hewitt was heckled by health workers at Unison's conference on Monday.
But she will seek to convince the nurses gathered in Bournemouth that the government is on the right track in its management of the NHS.
Really; how is she going to do that, exactly? Ah yes, by denying the evidence that is right in front of her pointy, little nose.
Her speech comes as the King's Fund health think-tank will warn that the NHS deficit could hit £1.2bn.
It is with a weary sense of resignation that I greet this news: is anyone surprised? Altogether now, sing it with me:
The wheels on the bus are falling off, falling off, falling off...
We will listen to what she has to say, but we do need some reassurances about what is happening
Stephen Newby, NHS Direct, which is facing job cuts itself, said
More than 2,000 nurses will be in the audience in Bournemouth to hear how the cash crisis can be resolved - over 7,000 job cuts have been announced in recent weeks.
Ms Hewitt will say that redundancies will be kept to a minimum, but more job losses are inevitable.
Hey, don't worry, guys! Those job cuts won't affect frontline services!
In particular, she will say trusts will have to move away from using agency staff which she says are "not the most efficient way to deliver patients care".
Well, no shit, Sherlock. Unfortunately, the inflexibility of staff budgets in the NHS mean that one has to hire agency nurses: their fees do not come off the staff wages budget, you see, and thus can be discounted. The rigidity of the central management mantra means that hospitals have no choice but to hire agency staff: much of the time, these staff are the same people who work during normal hours, only as agency staff they are not allowed to do certain procedures. It's insane.
[Hewitt's] visit comes after RCN general secretary Beverly Malone warned the government was skating on "thin ice" and the government risked leaving nurses feeling under-valued.
Diddums. Many, many people feel undervalued in their jobs: what do you want—mutual pat-on-the-back sessions? Grow up.
Stephen Newby, a nurse at NHS Direct - an organisation facing job cuts - said: "We will listen to what she has to say, but we do need some reassurances about what is happening.
"People are concerned about their jobs. The health service is under-funded, and while some efficiency savings can be made, we cannot continue as we are."
[Emphasis mine—DK] Stephen Newby can shut his fucking piehole, frankly. The health service costs us about £1billion a week at present, and that does not include all of the off-balance-sheet PFI capital expenditure. It is not underfunded, particularly; in 1997, it ran no worse than it does today on half the amount of money. No, it is badly managed and appallingly inefficient: staff productivity has continued to plummet and conditions have become far worse.
And, I'm sorry, but nurses and other staff are going to have to take a good portion of the blame for this.