Around 150 health workers and campaigners protested outside the Royal London Hospital yesterday evening, Tuesday, against staff and wage cuts across Barts Health NHS Trust. Staff across the trust’s six hospitals are angry that up to 3,000 workers will have pay slashed or will be sacked because it is crippled by its huge Private Finance Initiative (PFI) debt.
Val Phillips, a nurse and RCN (Royal College of Nursing) rep, said, “We cannot see finance be put before patients. We have to make a stand. Patients need qualified staff who enjoy coming to work not nurses reduced to pulp.”
Some of the lowest paid workers, phlebotomists, were angry at how they are treated despite working for many years. They are responsible for taking blood from patients.
A few months ago their wage slips were changed to read “junior phlebotomist”.
One said, “It’s a slap in the face. We’re told we’re unskilled but doctors send us patients when they can’t take blood, because they can’t find a vein.”
Her colleague agreed, “We don’t get enough recognition. If managers went out on strike for a day I don’t think anyone would notice, but if we went out nothing would get done.”
Barts and the Royal London Hospitals were rebuilt under a PFI where the NHS has to pay more than twice the cost of the buildings over 30 years.
This debt repayment is now £2 million a week.
Sam Strudwick, an occupational therapist in the Unison union at Whipps Cross hospital, spoke about how management try to impose fear on staff.
“They threaten us all the time. Now its ‘Accept these cuts or we’ll replace it with something worse.’ We don’t accept it, we’re going to ballot and vote to strike and we hope RCN will support us.”
Council workers, former patients, doctors and nurses from other London hospitals came to support health workers from across the Trust.
John McLoughlin, Tower Hamlets Unison branch secretary, said, “Unions must unite to defend the NHS and the welfare state and we must scrap the PFI.”