Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2240

NHS workers are fighting to defend the NHS from government attacks (Pic: Smallman )

NHS workers are fighting to defend the NHS from government attacks (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Understaffing is cause of NHS horror stories

I write in response to the recent report by the health service ombudsman that blames NHS workers for the problems facing public healthcare in Britain.

My philosophy has always been that “if the care I deliver is not good enough for my loved ones, then it is not good enough for anyone”. So I would never condone poor standards of care.

However, I feel that the ombudsman’s report, and the way the mainstream media have reported it, is less than accurate.

The report focuses on nine harrowing cases which do not truly reflect the care that nurses deliver, which in the main is exemplary.

While not excusing any incident of poor care it is worth remembering that nurses are not “angels”—they are ordinary working people.

The conditions that many nurses have to work in are not acceptable, nor conducive to delivering high quality care.

Many wards are run on good will—nurses will often stay several hours late after their shifts have finished to fill in the gaps left by understaffing.

Nurses often cannot take their breaks because there are literally no staff to cover and the wards never have the appropriate complement of staff or skill mix. Nurses are often going home physically and mentally drained. I don’t suppose the ombudsman has written a report on that?

The Royal College of Nursing reports that 27,000 nursing posts are to be lost across the NHS, through not recruiting into vacancies, people retiring and so on.

How on earth does the government expect standards to rise when the already inadequate staffing levels are being slashed?

Nurses are already worked to the bone and now they have to face reduced staffing levels, a two year pay freeze and attacks on their nationally agreed terms and conditions.

Furthermore, nurses are being downgraded, redeployed, given extra responsibilities with no extra pay—and now facing the prospect of their NHS trust having to compete with a private company for the right to provide their existing service due to the Tories’ privatisation plan.

The biggest cost in the NHS is staffing, so it doesn’t take a genius to work out how private providers will make a profit. They will reduce posts and attack salaries, and the terms and conditions of nurses.

There are over 750,000 registered nurses and healthcare assistants working in the NHS. The time is now for those people to stand up and show the government that enough is enough.

Matthew Hartley, Practice development nurse

Labour must fight the cuts

Your article on what councillors should do about implementing cuts (Socialist Worker, 19 February) quotes Islington Labour councillor Charlynne Pullen.

She says that we voted in a Labour council to protect ordinary and vulnerable people—and that she will vote for the Labour council’s cuts package because it will do the least damage.

I work for a charity based in councillor Pullen’s ward. We support vulnerable members of the LGBT community.

Our building is owned by the council, but because of the cuts, they have decided to sell it.

We only found out when a surveyor came to measure the building.

We’ve been offered a stark choice: face a private landlord who can treble our rent to market value, which would force us out of the building we have been in for over 20 years, or raise the money to buy it—within six months.

We, like countless other voluntary organisations, are fighting to keep going as the cuts hit.

Finding hundreds of thousands of pounds to buy our building is an additional nightmare.

That is the problem with councillor Pullen’s approach.

Labour cuts feel bad, even if it is Labour making them.

Who decides which services matter and which don’t, or who should be thrown on the dole?

We shouldn’t have to. The money is there to pay for the deficit and keep our services and jobs.

The government could choose to tax the rich and the banks, not punish people struggling to survive.

That is why Labour councillors should refuse to implement a single cut.

Any other approach risks splitting the anti-cuts movement which, united, can bring this government down.

We have to say no to all cuts and build the biggest movement possible.

Liz Clough, Islington, North London

Nuclear regulator sell off puts us all at risk

The Tories’ commitment to the nuclear industry is well known. But the real depth of their enthusiasm went unnoticed in the media last week.

They are setting up a new body to oversee the safety of the nuclear industry.

This means taking responsibility off the Health and Safety Executive and giving it to a new private company.

They are also taking the responsibility for the safety of transporting nuclear waste off the Department of Transport and giving it to the new company.

The new Office for Nuclear Regulation will regulate the nuclear power industry from April without a vote in parliament.

The announcement by Chris Grayling MP was hidden in a written ministerial statement outlining the plans.

The nuclear industry welcomed the announcement with enthusiasm—though that isn’t really surprising as the people funding the new company are, you guessed, it the nuclear industry.

The reason for this isn’t just the Tories’ desire to privatise everything.

As they themselves have admitted, that they want to fast‑track the building of new nuclear power stations. Cutting corners on safety will simply grease the wheel.

Karen White, Birmingham

Hague’s hypocrisy exposes the state

Foreign secretary William Hague has urged the Iranian authorities to “exercise restraint” when faced with demonstrations in the streets of Tehran.

Hague is apparently concerned about “reports of peaceful demonstrators being assaulted by Iranian security forces”.

What a pity Hague didn’t see fit to urge the Metropolitan Police to “exercise restraint” when they were brutally attacking student demonstrators on the streets of London last December.

In an operation described by the Met’s police commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson as “absolutely splendid”, the Met hospitalised 40 students and battered many hundreds more.

The Met beat student Alfie Meadows so hard he needed emergency brain surgery to save his life.

The whole world saw footage of the police dragging disabled student Jody McIntyre from his wheelchair and across the ground.

Hague is nothing but a squalid hypocrite who is prepared to condemn police brutality when it happens abroad but is happy to see it exercised here.

Sasha Simic, East London

Say more on the climate

Last Summer we watched Russian wheat burn, major ice sheets continue to shrink and 20 million Pakistanis flooded out of their homes.

These were caused by climate change and the effects of rapacious capitalism.

Surely nothing highlights the insanity of the capitalist system more than the effects of “endless growth” on the back of endless misery for the poor of the world.

Millions will starve in the midst of plenty of food they can’t afford because of speculation on prices.

This sparked the resistance in Middle East, as much as anything else.

Barb Cookson, by email

More powers for Wales

The upcoming referendum in Wales will be an opportunity for people in Wales to get more devolved powers.

As socialists we welcome these reforms and are encourageing people to vote yes.

We don’t think that all of the problems the working class faces in Wales, or in Britain as a whole, will be solved, of course. But these moves help to take apart the British state and weaken the hold of central government.

Ellen Winders, Cardiff

Bigots, hacks and Bieber

The recent offensive comments of 16-year old pop singer Justin Bieber have been beamed around the world.

Bieber said in a recent interview that abortion is “like killing a baby”.

When asked about women who have abortions after rape he commented, “Everything happens for a reason.”

It’s an abhorrent thing to say.

But it’s not great for journalists to set up adolescent boys to generate a few headlines either.

Rosie Hammond, Derby

Spread spirit of resistance

It’s good to see that the message from the People’s Convention was that we have got bring down this government (Socialist Worker, 19 February).

This should be our central and guiding slogan.

This government has no legitimacy, credibility or mandate.

People are angry all over the world—they are fed up with the rich controlling our lives.

From Tahrir Square to Minnesota to the streets of Britain, resistance is rising.

We must do all we can to help spread it.

Ron Senchak, Manchester

Tory racist kept his job

A new case has emerged of outright racism from the Tory party.

This time it’s from Tory councillor John Major, who said “Great candidate—shame he’s black” when interviewing someone for chief executive of Monmouthshire council.

A disciplinary panel found him guilty of “racist, discriminatory and inappropriate” language.

But Major has kept his job and denied the claims.

For me it’s just more proof that the Tories are against true intergration.

Grace Merit, by email

2011? More like 1911!

The only things that need cutting are obscene incomes of the rich—and the defence budget.

Britain’s government is made up of very wealthy individuals. Public services do not matter to them.

These people have shown total arrogance to the ordinary people in Britain.

This is 2011—but it’s not far off 1911 when you hear of the income difference between the rich and the poor.

It’s not cuts that are needed but jobs with decent living wages.

Nicholas Agnew, Essex

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Article information

Tue 22 Feb 2011, 17:52 GMT
Issue No. 2240
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