AS THE NHS winter crisis sets in, savage cuts to the health service have pushed services to the point of collapse. A severe lack of nurses, midwives, paramedics, doctors, ancillary staff, ambulances and beds have created a ‘perfect storm’ driving up mortality rates and driving an already overworked and underpaid workforce to the brink.
A shortage of ambulances and paramedics has lead to an extremely alarming spike in patient deaths, with many more patients dying in the back of ambulances. The number of cases of ‘Dead On Arrival’ (DOA) has more than doubled in four years.
The Royal Cornwall Hospital is under so much pressure from the NHS Winter Crisis that it has been forced to call an emergency alert. The Trust warned: ‘We are asking the public only to come to the Royal Cornwall Hospital’s Emergency Department if it really is an emergency.’
Meanwhile, a senior doctor warned that some hospitals were already experiencing ‘carnage on the ground’. ‘All we can say and see is pressure, pressure and more pressure – the system is on a knife-edge,’ said Dr Nick Scriven, president of the Society for Acute Medicine.
Dr Rob Galloway, an A&E consultant from Brighton, wrote in an open letter last week: ‘Up and down the country our A&E departments are in meltdown, our staff are at breaking point and we need your help. Patients are being left in corridors.’
Galloway asserts: ‘The fault does not lie with the patients. The fault is not with the staff … And the fault does not lie with the “system” of the NHS … The fault lies with the government. Years of failed austerity, depriving NHS and councils of vital monies and investment, is taking its toll.’
Dr Rob Galloway has hit the nail on the head! The Tory government has systematically starved the NHS of funds, leaving Trusts gasping for money. The vast bulk of the NHS budget is being sucked out of the NHS by private companies: private pharmaceutical companies charging a bomb for their drugs, Private Finance Initiative (PFI) companies demanding billions in re-payments on the NHS buildings they have built, and multinationals like ISS and Carillion which have private contracts for cleaning, portering and security within the NHS.
These companies are making a killing, charging the NHS extortionate amounts while paying their workforce next to nothing, treating them as if they are working in a ‘Victorian workhouse’. There was action outside four south London hospitals last Tuesday against the bullying of cleaners by ISS managers. ISS is a £9 billion global outsourcing giant that often uses what it calls ‘casual worker agreements’ and pays as low as £7.88 an hour. There were reports that cleaners were being followed to the toilet by supervisors demanding to know where they are going and why they have stopped working.
Nadine Houghton, GMB Organiser, said: ‘These stories from NHS workers are the kind of thing you’d expect in a Victorian workhouse. But this isn’t a Charles Dickens novel – this is 21st century Britain. It’s beyond belief people are being forced to live and work like this in our health service.’
However, these are exactly the conditions which Tory health secretary Hunt has in store for NHS doctors, nurses and staff. In a speech to the Conservative Party Conference earlier in the year, he announced plans to introduce an app-based work system in 12 NHS trusts. Hunt said: ‘They (nurses) need to be able to work flexibly, do extra hours at short notice, get paid more quickly when they do and make their own choices on pension contributions. So today I’m also announcing that new flexible working arrangements will be offered to all NHS employees during this parliament.
And we’ll start next year with 12 trusts piloting a new app-based flexible working offer to their staff.’
On Thursday, doctors’ union the British Medical Association (BMA) warned the Tories not to use Brexit as an excuse to attack the working time regulations. Chair of the British Medical Association (BMA) Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘A return to the days where doctors and nurses work 90-hour weeks would be bad for patient safety, for staff and for the NHS.’
The Tory war cry of ‘slash, burn and privatise’ must be met head on by the trade union movement. To defend the NHS requires a general strike. The TUC must utilise the full power of the working class to bring this country to a standstill and bring this government down. The working class will go forward to a workers government that will expropriate the bosses and bankers and bring in socialism under which the NHS will be restored and developed for the future.