Socialist Worker

Winter strikes early in NHS

Issue No. 1719

Winter strikes early in NHS

THE CRISIS in the health service is hitting hard this October-three months before the peak mid-winter period. More than 15 percent of nurses' positions in London are vacant because nurses are underpaid and overworked, and because of the lack of affordable housing. According to health union UNISON:

  • Half of London's nurses have thought about leaving the NHS.
  • 85 percent of nurses say their workload has increased, and 60 percent said that this was due to staff shortages.

Operations are being cancelled across Britain. Some 50 operations were cancelled at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth last week. The Department of Health is also refusing to spend �1.5 million on screening every newborn baby for cystic fibrosis. Yet the test would cost just �2 per child.

Every one of Britain's 22 hospices for children with terminal illnesses is currently laying off nurses and closing beds due to a funding crisis.

No wonder only 13 percent of voters believe the NHS has improved since New Labour got into government, according to a Guardian/ICM poll this week. Thirty four percent think it has got worse. Even one of the government's senior NHS advisers admitted this week that the health service is not improving.

Barry Jackson, president of the Royal College of Surgeons, said he had "major misgivings" about parts of New Labour's national plan for the NHS. He also criticised the government's decision to stick to Tory spending plans for its first two years in office.

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Sat 21 Oct 2000, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1719
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