A&Es axed, children’s hospitals closed, nurses driven out because of overwork and under-pay, junior doctors at the point of exhaustion, GP surgeries shut down, NHS staff outsourced: a decade of Tory cuts and privatisation has produced a lethal cocktail which has created the worst NHS winter crisis ever.
NHS performance figures published on Thursday show that A&E departments suffered their worst month on record. During the month of December (2019) nearly 100,000 of the sickest patients were forced to spend over four hours on trolleys and in corridors in A&E as beds could not be found.
There is a major staffing crisis in the NHS. Approximately 41,000 NHS nursing posts are vacant – one in ten – while applications for nursing degrees have plunged by 24 per cent in just three years after the student nurses’ and midwives’ bursary was axed.
BMA emergency medicine lead, Dr Simon Walsh said: ‘How many wake-up calls does the government need? These figures are truly alarming and serve as yet further evidence that our NHS simply doesn’t have the resources, staff, or capacity to cope with rocketing demand. These are sick patients, often left in cramped hospital corridors until a bed is available. This is totally unacceptable and demands urgent action.
‘A priority for the government must be to scrap the ridiculous punitive pension taxation system which is forcing many doctors to cut their working hours. We need a long-term fix to this crisis so that doctors can get back to doing what they do best – caring for their patients.’
Donna Kinnair, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: ‘The new government must begin work urgently to address the underlying causes of the current workforce crisis and recruit and retain more nurses, as committed to during the election campaign.’
Rachel Harrison, GMB National Officer, said: ‘Our NHS needs a proper rescue plan, an urgent injection of money and a proper pay rise for workers.’
Unison head of health Sara Gorton said: ‘The government has to explain urgently how it’s going to fix the health and social care system that clearly can no longer cope.’
The trade union leaders need to stop begging the Tories to ‘fix the NHS’ and start taking action themselves. The NHS union leaders in England: GMB, RCN, RCM, BMA, Unison and Unite must take a lead from their colleagues in the north of Ireland.
In the north of Ireland, there has been health strike after strike. The Royal College of Nurses came out on strike for the first time in the union’s 103-year history on December 18.
Ten more days of strike action have been called and Wednesday was the first strike in this round of action. The second day of the strike was yesterday where 9,000 nurses joined other health workers in the Unison trade union.
And the strike is gathering pace! Midwives in Northern Ireland are currently being balloted to join the strike. The ballot by the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) opened last Monday and closes on 29 January.
The strike is also over the massive staffing crisis where the situation has got so bad that nurses in the north of Ireland have no other option but to strike.
Northern Ireland RCN director Pat Cullen said: ‘Our members are absolutely determined to fight for a health service that patients in Northern Ireland deserve. Nurses have shown courage and resilience during this dispute and will continue to do so until we can achieve a system that is fit for purpose.’
That same determination, courage and resilience must be shown by the leaders of the RCN, GMB, RCM, BMA, Unison and Unite in England. They must join the north of Ireland strike immediately!
Every worker in the country relies on the NHS from cradle to grave! The entire working class must force the TUC to call a general strike to bring the Johnson government down and go forward to a workers government.
A workers government will expropriate the bosses and bankers to get the resources to reopen all closed A&Es and other departments, reopen all shut hospitals and build new ones. It will restore the full student nurses’ and midwives’ bursary, mass recruit nurses, doctors and other staff, and kick all private businesses out of the health service once and for all. This is the way forward!