Desperate Tories will try to persuade us this week that their plans for NHS “reform” will not rip the service apart.
“This is not about privatisation,” health secretary Andrew Lansley will plead, as private healthcare bosses prepare to sink their teeth into our hospitals.
Lansley will also insist the health service is properly funded, and that it will escape the axe swinging for every other service.
Try telling that to the health workers who face job losses at Barts hospital in central London.
Bosses there plan to save millions from overstretched budgets by slashing vital staff—and the number of workers threatened keeps growing.
Earlier in the year the hospital trust insisted that the 600 “staff savings” it wanted could be achieved by “natural wastage”. But it now admits that not enough can be cut this way and that job losses are inevitable.
“They sent out letters last month warning people that their jobs were ‘at risk’,” says Ed, who works on a cancer ward at the hospital.
“They started by saying four jobs were affected, then six, then eight. It seems they’ll cut as much as they can get away with.”
Ed says his ward will be decimated by the cuts.
“It’s going to be chaos,” he says. “We are going to lose committed nurses. I know of at least one very experienced nurse who happens to be pregnant who has been told her job is ‘at risk’.
“Those who are left will have to cope with less staff to help spread the load. Patients will suffer. Put bluntly, if you soil yourself in bed you could be sitting in your own shit for ages. If you need pain relief you could be waiting in agony until a nurse can see you.
“And, if you can’t feed yourself, your food will have long gone cold before anyone has time to help you. There are already cases of vulnerable patients suffering from malnutrition while in hospital.
“This is among patients who are already seriously ill, including those who are undergoing chemotherapy.”
Ed says that having fewer qualified staff on the ward creates other dangers.
“People on wards like mine often have to take a lot of high strength medication. If a nurse makes a mistake during a drugs round it can be extremely dangerous, even deadly.
“But the chances of an error go up massively when people are trying to cover for staff who have been axed.”
On some wards bosses have extended day shifts to over 12 hours to implement the cuts. Ed says there is anger among his colleagues.
“We know the Tories are in disarray over their plans, and people here have been on some of the recent health and cuts protests,” he says. “People want our unions to put up a fight.
“But there is also a sense of fear about the future—both for us and those we care for. We all feel at risk.”
With Lansley becoming a hate figure there could not be a better time for the unions and NHS campaigners to initiate a wave of protests.