Defend the NHS – Stop the job cuts – Bring down Blair and Brown


ON Tuesday, at the Prime Minister’s monthly press conference, the NHS chief executive, David Nicholson confessed that he did not know how many jobs would be lost this year in the NHS as a result of the budget cuts and the NHS reorganisation (privatisation).

He however rejected the figure that has been quoted by the RCN (Royal College of Nursing) that up to 20,000 jobs will be lost.

The Prime Minister chimed in to say that the 20,000 figure was wrong, and that at the most there would be ‘only’ a couple of hundred compulsory redundancies in the NHS.

However, up and down the country tens of thousands of people are marching and demonstrating to keep their local hospitals open, or to stop them being reconfigured by having their Accident and Emergency and Maternity departments removed.

Likewise up and down the country, cottage hospitals are being shut down, while directly ahead is the government’s project to reconfigure up to 60 District General hospitals.

A large number of hospitals face closure as the government turns to ‘care in the community’.

Thousands of jobs are already being lost, and thousands of people are losing their jobs, such as the Indian and Commonwealth doctors who have been shown the door by new regulations, while large numbers of junior doctors and just qualified nurses cannot get jobs at all.

The RCN has just brought out an important survey that shows that almost three-quarters of newly qualified nurses are still searching for a permanent job months after qualifying.

The survey of both newly qualified and student nurses highlights the impact of the current financial crisis hitting the NHS, with many employers calling a halt to recruitment in a bid to balance the books.

The survey was of 500 newly qualified nurses and over 2,200 student nurses. Of the 500 newly qualified nurses questioned, 71% were still searching for a band 5 nursing job – the level at which all nurses begin their career – and the majority (86%) were not confident of finding a permanent position.

Almost all of the nurses questioned (93%) either ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’ that recruitment freezes and job cuts were the reason for their current difficulties in finding a permanent job and the vast majority (92%) thought that the current situation would deter people from wanting to become a nurse. Worryingly, most (85%) also said that they would consider retraining or looking for work in another sector if they continued to experience problems.

Student nurses were also unsure about their futures in nursing with two-thirds of them (66%) saying they did not believe they would find a permanent job when they completed their studies. Almost two-fifths (38%) said the current situation had made them consider stopping their nursing course and switching to a course in another subject and the overwhelming majority (87%) said they believed that the situation at present would deter people from wanting to become nurses in the future.

General Secretary of the RCN, Dr Beverly Malone, commented ‘We desperately need these nurses in the NHS now . . . We know there are 180,000 nurses due to retire over the next ten years – if the new generation of nurses are finding it so tough that the majority are considering changing careers, then we clearly need to take action now.’

The essence of the matter is that the government is breaking up the NHS, and its hospital based system, because crisis-ridden capitalism wants to be rid of it. Labour is diverting the NHS budget into rebuilding the private medical sector, while spinning a line that much better care can be offered in the community, which it cannot.

Blair plans to shut down large numbers of hospitals and is willing to see thousands of expensively trained doctors and nurses leave Britain to get jobs.

On November 1 the trade unions and the BMA and the RCN, under the banner of ‘NHS Together’, are lobbying parliament to defend the NHS.

This must be just the start of the build-up to a general strike to bring down the Blair government and bring in a workers’ government that will defend and develop the NHS, with care based on people’s needs and not on providing profits for the private sector.