Socialist Worker

Health workers battle for NHS

by Yuri Prasad
Issue No. 2241

Health workers in London have called a “Day X for the NHS” in response to growing NHS job losses and cuts.

They have been inspired by the student “Day X” protests that rocked the government over fees last year.

Student and staff nurses will join doctors, occupational therapists, dieticians, admin workers and radiographers on the day, Wednesday 9 March.

They will march from the Royal London hospital in Whitechapel to Bart’s in the City.

“Me and my friends are coming, and we’re telling everyone we know,” said Olympia, who has worked for the NHS for the past fifteen years, and is now a student nurse at City University.

“For three years we’ve worked really hard on our course, but now we’ve been told there might not be a job at the end of it.

“Managers are trying to scare us into not protesting. Some say it might affect our chances of getting a permanent job.

“But many student nurses think we have to stand up to them.”

Olympia says that the recent student movement has inspired them, and that nurses too want to put pressure on the Tories.

A report by the TUC’s False Economy group last week revealed that up to 50,000 posts could be lost as health trust bosses attempt to make the £20 billion “savings” being demanded by the Tories.

Ed, who works on a cancer ward at Bart’s, says that the cuts are creating a climate of “anger and fear”.

Climate

“This week our bosses announced that they couldn’t rule out compulsory job losses,” he said. “But the cuts are already causing chaos.

“On my ward yesterday, we were short-handed and one of our patients needed a blood transfusion—that takes two nurses. The rest of us were running around trying to do all the other jobs. It was a nightmare.

“People who normally get on really well ended up shouting at each other.”

Ed says that activists are trying to turn frustration at the cuts into to anger that can help build next week’s protest.

“We are having quite a lot of success, particularly among student nurses,” he said.

“Some from our place have already taken hundreds of flyers and arranged to leaflet their halls of residence.”

The growing mood around the protest is echoed by Jordan, an occupational therapist and Unison union rep at the Homerton hospital in Hackney.

“We’ve been going around our wards with leaflets. The most common reaction is ‘thank god someone is doing something’,” she said.

Community

“Community midwives and advocates—two groups that are threatened by job losses—are planning to come to the protest.

“We hope to get patients, community groups and other trade unionists too.”

Jackie, a GP from Tower Hamlets, east London, says doctors in her area were lifted by a health cuts protest last month where health workers blocked a major road.

“Doctors were inspired by the fact that workers from so many different parts of the NHS came together,” she said.

“It’s true that some GPs are prepared to help the government implement their plans to reorganise the health service. But many others aren’t—and they want to protest.

“We’ve made sure that leaflets and posters for the demo on 9 March have gone out to every surgery in our area. In the process we’ve discovered lots of doctors who back us—so much so that we’ve decided to start a new branch of our BMA union in east London.”

Backing for the Day X for the NHS protest continues to grow, with the London region of the Unite union throwing its weight behind it last week.

“I hope this can be the beginning of something big,” says Ed. “With the future of the health service at stake, we’ve got to put up a real fight.”

Assemble 5pm, Wednesday 9 March, Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel Road, E1 1BB for march to Bart’s


Theatre nurses in the Unison union at St George’s Hospital in south London have voted in favour of industrial action over rota changes. More than 95 percent of the 200 nurses voted yes in an indicative ballot.


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News
Tue 1 Mar 2011, 18:46 GMT
Issue No. 2241
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