Midwives plan more strikes over pay

Midwives on the picket line at Ealing Hospital in west London during the October 13 strike
Midwives on the picket line at Ealing Hospital in west London during the October 13 strike

HEAD of the midwives union RCM slammed the Tory government’s attack on NHS workers’ pay in her speech to the RCM conference that began this morning.

The conference which is taking place at the International Centre in Telford today and tomorrow comes after RCM members last month organised the first strike of the unions 133 year history.

Further strike action by NHS trade unions is planned for November 24th.

The fight over NHS pay currently being waged between NHS unions and NHS employers in England ‘is of the government’s own making’, RCM Chief Executive Cathy Warwick told delegates.

Referring to strike action by midwives last month Warwick said: ‘I never thought I would see the day when midwives would go on strike, and I am sad that it has come to this. But I am also angry at the way we have been treated.’

The RCM explained: ‘The offer made by the government on pay will see many of the RCM’s members earning the same in 2016 as they were in 2013, against a backdrop of a sharply rising cost of living.’

Warwick continued: ‘If there really is no money to pay midwives and other NHS staff a one per cent pay rise, how come top NHS managers have been given £166 million in bonuses? And how is it that there is money to give MPs a ten per cent pay rise?’

In her speech, she also laid down a challenge to employers in Northern Ireland, where the RCM and other health unions are still trying to secure a fair pay settlement for NHS staff.

The RCM is also consulting on an improved pay offer in Wales. Speaking on this issue Cathy Warwick said: ‘The RCM is prepared to fight as hard in these countries as we are in England. . . This is effectively the start of a campaign to devalue your pay; it has started in England but it has implications across the UK.’

Warwick also accused the government of ‘deliberate misrepresentation’ over the structure of NHS pay for midwives and argued that its structure actually saves the NHS money.

She added: ‘For thirty years successive governments have abided by this covenant on pay. We did not pick this fight; it is entirely of the government’s making.’

Warwick concluded: ‘The RCM recognises the need to transform how we deliver services if we are to ensure a future NHS remains affordable.

‘However to achieve that will require the help of motivated, fairly paid staff not demoralised staff who feel poorly treated.’

• The simultaneous closures of the Accident and Emergency Departments at Central Middlesex and Hammersmith hospitals on 10th September have led waiting times at west London’s remaining hospitals to become the longest in the country.

The closures have put them under ‘unbearable pressure,’ a local GP and doctors’ leader has warned.

Thousands of patients at the three nearest hospitals – Ealing, Charing Cross and Northwick Park – have had to wait for longer than the NHS target of four hours since the closures.

Figures from NHS England reveal that the trust which runs Northwick Park and Ealing hospitals was the worst in the country for A&E performance in the final two weeks of October.

In the week to October 19, it saw only 67.8 per cent of patients at its main accident and emergency departments within four hours, compared with the target of 95 per cent. The next week it was 73.3 per cent.

Over the fortnight, 1,455 patients waited more than four hours to be seen.

Under the second phase of the government’s onslaught on healthcare in west London, which it cynically entitles: ‘Shaping A Healthier Future,’ Charing Cross Hospital’s A&E will not receive blue light emergency ambulances, while Ealing’s A&E will be axed.

Last month, the closure of the maternity unit at Ealing hospital was announced to take place next March.

The plan to axe the only maternity unit in the borough, with the third highest birthrate in London, was described as ‘madness’.

More than 3,000 babies are born at Ealing each year, and more than 100 Ealing Hospital midwives now face the sack.

Local GP and chairman of the London Assembly health committee, Dr Onkar Sahota, said: ‘The closure of Central Middlesex and Hammersmith A&E units left the remaining hospitals in north-west London breaking under the strain.

‘It is now crystal clear that those cuts have turned a well performing NHS trust into one with the worst A&E waiting times in the country.’