BMA & RCEM demand urgent action to end NHS winter crisis! TUC must call a general strike to defend NHS!

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DOCTORS’ union the British Medical Association (BMA) has demanded ‘urgent action this winter to stop the National Health Service derailing entirely’.

This stark warning came in a new report ‘Weathering the Storm’ released yesterday, which predicts this winter will be the worst on record for UK health services.

The BMA says the strain on an already exhausted workforce has the potential to derail the long-term recovery of the NHS if ‘urgent action isn’t taken now to minimise pressures.’

The BMA underscores the workforce crisis warning that staff are leaving hand over fist, and demands the Tory government ends the ‘punitive pensions’ taxation rules to ensure no doctor is penalised for working extra hours, and reduce bureaucracy and unnecessary workload to free up valuable clinical time’.

The BMA states: ‘With nearly 100,000 vacancies across hospital trusts in England alone, and ever dwindling GP (General Practitioner) numbers coupled with rising numbers of patients per GP and those patients on waiting lists for hospital care, the winter crisis is acute.’

Dr Trevor Pickersgill, BMA Chief Officer, said: ‘We are braced for what will likely be the worst winter in the history of the NHS and we need government and health service leaders to take decisive steps now and to be honest with the public about the pressure health services are under. We are the voice of doctors, experts in healthcare delivery, and we hear from our members daily about the challenges they are facing on their wards, in their clinics and in their surgeries. To stop services and the already fragile recovery from completely derailing, urgent action must be taken.

‘Doctors are leaving, cutting their hours or making plans to leave the health service altogether due to workload, stress and exhaustion. Simply – we must stop this happening. The health service is nothing without its staff. Staff are already suffering from burnout and exhaustion.

‘To get through this winter their wellbeing must be prioritised – including sufficient rest breaks, hot food, leave and time off between shifts.

‘Finally, one of the biggest impacts on the health service remains Covid. If all governments across the UK strengthened infection prevention and control in public settings, such as making mask-wearing mandatory in indoor public spaces, and improving ventilation, we could cut infection rates and relieve some of the pressure on staff and hospital beds.’

Meanwhile, the Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) yesterday also rang the alarm bell over the NHS crisis, describing longer and longer queues of ambulances outside A&Es. They cannot drop off patients because the A&Es are full and there are simply not enough beds, doctors, nurses and staff.

Two-thirds of A&Es polled by the RCEM indicated they are struggling to meet the standard every day. RCEM president Dr Katherine Henderson said: ‘We are facing a crisis in urgent care and a crisis of patient safety.’

The Royal College surveyed A&E departments across the UK and found that 61% said ambulances were being forced to queue every day and about half of emergency departments said care had been provided to patients in non-medical areas such as corridors every day.

Patients are waiting on trollies in hospital corridors for hours and hours, queues of ambulances are trailing around the block outside A&Es, and burned out doctors and nurses are doing the jobs of three people.

This is a direct result of Tory cuts to the NHS over the last decade – and now there is the added threat of a new variant of Covid-19.

No wonder nurses and hospital staff are balloting for strike action. They are furious over pay, over staff shortages and over privatisation. NHS staff are warning that unless urgent action is taken now they cannot guarantee the safety of their patients. That urgent action must be strike action!

Workers in every single union in the country rely on the NHS from cradle to grave. Now the future of the NHS is reliant on the unions taking united action to defend the NHS. This Tory government must be kicked out and a workers’ government brought in to restore the NHS and develop it for the future.

The TUC must call a general strike now before the NHS crisis gets any worse – it is an issue of life and death.