RCN declares ‘national emergency’ in the NHS over ‘corridor care’!

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THE Royal College of Nursing (RCN) acting general secretary, Professor Nicola Ranger, opened the union’s annual conference yesterday declaring a ‘national emergency’ in the NHS over hospitals being forced to deliver clinical care in ‘inappropriate areas’.

This stark warning follows an RCN investigation into the extent of patients being treated in hospital corridors and other public areas including car parks and fracture rooms.

This growing and widespread use of inappropriate space, or ‘corridor care’, is endangering patients’ safety by leaving them without oxygen and unable to attract the attention of nursing staff when in distress or pain, the RCN warns.

‘Corridor care’ also deprives patients of their dignity with medical staff forced to carry out intimate examinations in full view of others.

It also degrades patients by restricting readily available access to toilet facilities.

The new RCN report is based on a survey of 11,000 nurses across the UK into the impact on patients and staff of medical care being delivered on stretchers and chairs in corridors and, in some cases, cupboards.

As one nurse told the RCN: ‘You wouldn’t treat a dog this way’ as nurses described patients with cancer being informed of their diagnosis in public areas and someone suffering from dementia left for hours without oxygen in a corridor.

Professor Ranger told the conference: ‘Our once world-leading services are treating patients in car parks and store cupboards. The elderly are languishing on chairs for hours on end and patients are dying in corridors.’

She added: ‘The horror of this situation cannot be understated. It is a national emergency for patient safety.’

Labour’s right-wing shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said of the RCN’s declaration of a national emergency: ‘NHS nurses are sounding the alarm on the appalling state of the NHS after 14 years of Conservative neglect.’

It wasn’t 14 years of ‘neglect’. The NHS and medical staff were the object of a concerted war waged against public services by the Tories under their austerity campaign to make the working class pay for the world banking collapse in 2008.

Hospitals and A&E departments were closed down, or amalgamated, under austerity cuts to bail out the bankers, while private companies were encouraged to grab whatever profits they could make from an NHS brought to its knees.

Wages of nurses and doctors were frozen, meaning that their current real take-home pay is now below that of 2010, leading to thousands being forced out with inevitable consequences for the massive staffing crisis.

What Streeting doesn’t mention is that the floodgates for privatisation of the NHS were opened by the New Labour government of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown who brought in the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) which encouraged speculators to finance hospital building programmes saddling these hospitals with massive debts and legally binding repayment agreements at usurious rates of interest.

Although PFI was eventually scrapped, hundreds of hospital trusts are still on the hook to these private companies for the massive debt they signed up to – debt repayments that won’t finish until 2049, by which time PFI is estimated to have cost the NHS over £70 billion.

Streeting and Keir Starmer have both boasted that any future Labour government will be like ‘Blair on steroids’ with Streeting insisting that the solution to the NHS crisis is more privatisation while at the same time insisting that he stands with the Tories over the junior doctors’ demand for pay increases and he won’t ‘give in’ to the BMA.

Both Streeting and Starmer are united with the Tories in insisting that ‘throwing money’ at the NHS isn’t an option, and the health service will only get what a bankrupt British capitalist system can afford – which is precisely nothing.

With Labour and the Tories in agreement that the NHS, the most precious gain made by the working class, must be privatised out of existence and patients left to suffer inhumane conditions in corridors, the time has come for the working class to force the TUC to act by calling a general strike to bring down this collapsing Tory government and go forward to a workers’ government and socialism.

Only a socialist planned economy can provide a fully funded NHS to meet the needs of all.