NURSES and other National Health Service workers called for national strike action from all unions to defend the NHS last Thursday.
RCN and UNISON health workers lobbied parliament and held separate meetings in Westminster on Thursday afternoon, but the message was the same from both unions – ‘Action now to defend NHS jobs and services before it’s too late!’
UNISON member Sally Longhurst, a project administrator from Queen Mary’s Hospital, Sidcup, Kent, said: ‘I’m here because of the uncertainty with regard to jobs in my trust.
‘There hasn’t been a definite statement of cuts but some of my colleagues have been given letters saying their jobs are at risk.
‘As a body we’ve been told there will be redundancies, but we don’t know what’s what.
‘I think the unions should show their strength and defend every job. Not just the health unions but all unions.
‘How can these job cuts help the NHS? We are so short-staffed as it is.’
UNISON member Lisa Zappone, a sister in a children’s ward at St Mary’s, said: ‘I’ve had a letter saying my job is at risk. There are five sisters posts which they want to cut down to two.
‘I’ve worked as a nurse in the NHS for 20 years and I am bitter about this. I’ve committed myself to giving quality care to patients and now they are threatening to dump me.
‘They are saying the NHS financial crisis means they have to cut down on senior members of staff and morale is tumbling.
‘The union should call a one day general strike to support the health care profession.’
UNISON member Mike Hulin, a general porter in Frenchay Hospital, Bristol, said: ‘I’m here to protest against the creeping privatisation of the NHS and against PFI schemes.
‘They’ve applied for £500 million in PFI schemes in the Bristol area. A major part is the £300 million “consolidation” of two hospitals and their replacement with one PFI hospital.
‘It would result in fewer beds, job cuts and large chunks being privatised.
‘We should put pressure on the union to call national strike action to keep our NHS public.
‘We had a big May Day march in Bristol, at the heart of which was the defence of the NHS and all public services.’
RCN member Nicola Plant, from Sandwell Hospital in Birmingham, said: ‘The ward I work on is actually closing, resulting in the ending of gynaecology treatment in our hospital. They are planning 800 redundancies.
‘There should definitely be a one day general strike to defend the NHS. We need the public to fight for us and yes, nurses should strike. No-one is safe, everyone is under attack.’
Sandwell RCN colleague Tyrone Roberts said: ‘I would strike as long as emergency services are covered.
‘The whole country would support such action. We are working harder and harder and it’s getting worse and worse.’
Sandwell Hospital ward clerk and UNISON member Lianne Hunt said: ‘My ward is shutting down and my job is at risk.
‘We all co-operate. It’s a friendly hospital and the amount of care we put in is enormous. We work as a team.
‘Everything is threatened. The higher up jobs, the executives, aren’t at risk, it’s the front line jobs. We need national strike action.’
Sandwell Hospital RCN member Diane Howell added: ‘I am very upset. Our ward is going to close and we don’t know if we are being redeployed or made redundant. I love my job and I am good at it.
‘We need action from the union now. That’s what we pay into it for.’
Danielle North was with fellow nursing students from Suffolk College, Ipswich. She said: ‘We qualify in January and we will be very lucky if we get even a six month contract.
‘We all entered the training because we want to be nurses. It’s a vocation. But now we are likely to be thrown on the scrapheap before we’ve even started.
‘It’s about time the unions took action. We should have a strike throughout the whole country.
‘I think it is only now that the government is realising that we are not just going to sit back and take it.’
RCN student nurse Clare Disney said: ‘We can’t let these jobs go. We met a diabetes nurse the other day. She’s been working for the NHS for 20 years and now her trust have just run out of money and are not renewing her contract. It’s a terrible waste.
‘They are going to lose these skills and it’s the patients as well as the workers that will suffer. We want action.’
Helen Walker, RCN Worcester Royal Hospital, said: ‘We are losing 720 members of staff. In my hospital we have a lot of foreign nurses who have been brought to England to fill the gaps.
‘They are brilliant nurses. They are just not here today because they are frightened to lift their heads over the parapet. I’m here today for them.
‘I’ve never been an activist, but now’s the time for action.’
Matthew Trainer, from the Multiple Sclerosis Society said: ‘We want an end to the uncertainty about the future of MS specialist nurses, who provide a service that no-one else can provide.’
Marlo, an MS patient, added: ‘The nurses are my lifeline. It would be a complete disaster if they were cut.’
RCN member Premi Bonomally from Dereford Hospital in Plymouth said: ‘We have a very well run breast cancer ward which they are going to close down.’
Gareth Phillips, RCN Council member for Wales said: ‘Every time you make a nurse redundant a patient somewhere is having their care compromised.
‘I’ve never seen nurses so angry and to say our reaction to Patricia Hewitt was staged suggests the government is burying its head in the sand over the issue.’
Colin White, from Surrey and Sussex NHS Trust said: ‘I think we should wipe out the deficits and start again and get rid of Patricia Hewitt and get someone who knows about healthcare.’
Royal College of Nursing General Secretary Beverley Malone told 1,000 members at Westminster Central Hall: ‘To date 13,000 nurses posts have been designated for elimination in the last six months alone.
‘Our response at our annual congress when the Secretary of State addressed us was not orchestrated. It was a spontaneous reaction, it was natural. It represented the hurt we are all feeling.’
Geraldine Sosnoski from Colchester General Hospital told News Line: ‘I’m a student nurse coming up to the end of my third year of training.
‘I’ve been told there’s no guaranteed job, no funding. But we need more nurses.’
Nurse Chris Bourne, University Hospital of North Staffordshire, said: ‘We’re here because our trust has announced over 1,200 redundancies – 370 are nursing posts, and 200 care assistant posts.
‘We believe this is detrimental to both patient care and safety.
‘And we’re here to hammer home that message to prime minister Tony Blair – Blair definitely has to go!’
Fellow RCN member Mina Flemming added: ‘We had over 5,000 march through Stoke-on-Trent, we didn’t expect it to be so successful.’
Sisters Janice Bailey and Leslie Smith also came from University of North Staffordshire Hospital.
Janice said: ‘We’re the hospital with the biggest job losses.’
Leslie added: ‘Blair beware and Hewitt blew it – Blair’s got to go!’