Socialist Worker

Health bosses add to A&E crisis

by Sarah Ensor
Issue No. 2354

Thousands marched against London NHS cuts and privatisation last week

Thousands marched against London NHS cuts and privatisation last week (Pic: Luca Neve)


Ambulance bosses in London are preparing a new attack on workers.

The London Ambulance Service (LAS) has brought in a new chief executive with a glossy new plan called “Time for Change”.

This follows the growing crisis of London’s A&E departments, where ambulance crews often find themselves waiting for long periods or being diverted to other hospitals.

The plan blames this crisis on workers. It implies that ambulance staff work too little for too much money and take too many holidays. 

But the real problem is a shortage of ambulances and qualified staff. This plan will only bring longer hours, lower pay—and less qualified staff at emergencies.

LAS workers currently get an unpaid 30-minute break—in theory. But they are often forced to miss their breaks.

Paramedic Sandra told Socialist Worker, “In my last four shifts I’ve worked 

without any breaks at all. It isn’t safe. We’re tired but driving with sirens.”

The new plan would scrap the £10 compensation workers receive for missing a break. It would redefine a break to include time by the roadside without any facilities.

The plan calls for more staff. But it doesn’t say where their training will come from. 

And already the cuts mean less trained staff doing the work of paramedics.

Ann is an urgent care worker not trained for emergencies. But workers like her are increasingly being sent to deal with them alone.

“It’s very stressful because I don’t have the training,” she told Socialist Worker. “I have to face angry patients who have waited a long time and can’t understand why I can’t give the care.”

Sandra was met at an accident recently by a private ambulance staffed by “technicians” instead of paramedics.

That could mean they’ve had very little training. “That means I have to go with the patient too,” explained Sandra, “which means more delays.”

The GMB and Unison unions oppose the proposals.

Workers feel insulted by their bosses when they  blame them for delays.

Ambulance worker Maria said “We’re very angry about these proposals.

“We are already working as hard as we can.”

Names have been changed to protect workers’ identities

If you enjoy Socialist Worker, please consider giving to our annual appeal to make sure we can maintain and develop our online and print versions of Socialist Worker. Go here for details and to donate.

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.