THOUSANDS of NHS workers and many other trade unionists marched to the Tory Party conference yesterday morning to deliver their notice to the Tories to quit.
Responding to the Health Minister’s speech in the morning session of the annual Conservative Party conference, British Medical Association (BMA) council chair, Professor Phil Banfield, said: ‘Steve Barclay’s speech reflected a government with nothing to say about the major challenges facing the NHS, and nothing new to offer to those who rely on our health service or who work in it.
‘How have we got to a stage where the leader of our health service gives an address at his own Party’s conference, and completely ignores the 7.6m patients currently waiting for treatment?
‘He claimed to be on the side of patients but failed to even acknowledge those waiting in pain and distress. While doctors are supportive of patient choice and the enhanced and safe use of technology, we are acutely aware that right now our patients desperately want to be seen in good time and close to home. Mr Barclay claims to be focused on outcomes all while refusing to speak with those who deliver care.
‘Instead of using his address to highlight plans to ensure our NHS remains fit for purpose he spent a significant amount of time making false claims that the BMA poses a threat to the post-pandemic recovery of the NHS, when in fact it’s the BMA that has been long pleading with the Health Secretary to undo the more than a decade-long mishandling of the health service.
‘Steve Barclay has to come and speak to doctors; we know our patients and the system that we work in so we are best placed to help the government develop policy that will actually have an impact on patients and NHS outcomes.
‘On Mr Barclay’s comments about patient access, currently the Association is not taking legal action – a fact Mr Barclay should have been aware of when he made his comments today – but has previously considered doing so because ultimately access to records must not come at the expense of unmanageable risks to patient safety and workload.
‘It also did not go unnoticed that Mr Barclay took the time to name individual universities which will have additional medical school places next September, yet failed to mention the actual number of additional spaces – 205, which is a mere drop in the ocean against 10,800 doctor vacancies.
‘Mr Barclay’s announcement on plans to change the NHS constitution isn’t ‘common sense’ as he claims, it’s a distraction from serious NHS problems and has the potential to incite discrimination and harassment of transgender and non-binary patients, limiting them from accessing vital NHS services.
‘All patients deserve dignity and access to healthcare, which includes having their identity respected. Doctors providing care have been and will continue to make decisions with our patients regarding what care best meets their individual needs.
‘As healthcare professionals, we pride ourselves on providing patient-centred care rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach. Making informed, respectful decisions with our patients is the best way to respect both staff and patients’ dignity, autonomy and human rights.
‘It’s beyond belief that on day two of the biggest industrial action the NHS has ever seen, the Health Secretary has chosen to make a call that would require Trusts to follow guidance which is in breach of the Equality Act – this will amount to nothing except more hurt and harm to trans patients.
‘Hospital Trusts should not follow unlawful guidance, and this is another, frustrating, example of the government’s refusal to listen to and value the views and opinions of those who work within the NHS.
‘Common sense would address the core issues that are impacting NHS staff and that’s why we are striking today to protect patients. It’s been more than 100 days since the government last met with our NHS doctors and it shows.’
Meanwhile, in London and throughout the country NHS workers were on picket lines.
Both patients and NHS workers ‘deserve better,’ the Society of Radiographers (SoR) said as they held a 24-hour walkout, in response to ongoing recruitment and retention issues blighting the profession.
From 8.00am yesterday, radiographers and other NHS workers were striking over the increasingly challenging working conditions in the service.
They joined picket lines across the UK to raise awareness of the staff shortages, low pay, and the excessive working hours they face in the profession.
A lively picket outside University College Hospital in north London won support from passing motorists who beeped their horns.
Their main placard said: ‘Radiographers are Life Savers’.
Striker Zahar told News Line: ‘We’re striking to get the best for patients.
‘We need more staffing and more funding to improve healthcare.
‘We need better wages. With the cost of living crisis we need something that’s going to help us.
‘It would be good to get all the unions out together to defend the NHS.’
Fellow SoR member Helen said: ‘Pay us what we’re worth, that’s why we’re on strike.
‘We can’t afford to live on the pay we’re getting.
‘This is also about patient safety. Because people can’t have enough they’re leaving in droves.
‘We’re underpaid and understaffed. We’re fighting for patient safety. It all comes in one, it’s not just about the money.
‘All the unions should come out on strike to defend the NHS and get rid of the Tory government.’
Frank Lampen, SoR rep at Queen’s Square Radiography, said: ‘We’re striking to get a decent wage.
‘We’re really worried about staffing. Four people left, went to Australia or left the profession in the past two years just in my department.
‘We’re losing too many. I’ve never seen so many people leaving the profession, that’s my biggest worry.
‘It’s something I haven’t seen before in 29 years.
‘We’re fighting to defend the NHS. The Tories are out to privatise the NHS. They’re deliberately underfunding it to drive privatisation.
‘There should be a ring-fenced NHS tax going up each year in line with inflation.’
- There was a big lively picket of the Barts ancillary workers in Unite outside the Royal London Hospital Whitechapel. The Trust still has not granted them the lump sum for last year that they are owed, since coming in-house.
They were joined by a group of nurses in Unite. Rebecca, a registered second year nurse in Unite, told News Line: ‘They’re drowning us in work.
‘The pay rise that we got is all lost in tax and student loans anyway. Tuition fees of £9,000 a year for three years, plus the interest, plus living costs leaves me with over £65,000 of debt.
‘There’s not enough nurses in departments. We’re all nurses and it makes you feel terrible that you cannot give the standards of care that we want to give. The volume of patients is too big and there’s not enough nurses.
‘It needs all-out nationwide action to make change happen. The NHS should be restored as a publicly owned service not run for profit. In a first world country it is disgraceful that people are having to use food banks.’