Socialist Worker

New savage A&E cuts show why health workers are right to fight the Tories

by Annette Mackin
Issue No. 2421

Day of action outside University College Hospital, London in June

Day of action outside University College Hospital, London in June


A struggling A&E in London will have to deal will some 8,000 more patients a year after two neighbouring emergency departments were closed last week.

Central Middlesex and Hammersmith A&Es in west London treated a total of 36,000 patients a year. 

They were shut down to become “urgent care centres”—which offer a 24-hour service for non life threatening cases. Many of these are short staffed so nurses have to work long hours.

Northwick Park hospital will have to pick up the overspill of thousands of patients.

Chief inspector of hospitals, Professor Sir Mike Richards, has said that staff morale at Northwick Park is low due to an already high workload.

“This experience is widespread across the country,” said Karen Reissmann, a nurse and Unison union national executive member (pc).

“The health service is in disarray due to the huge cuts, reorganisation and the wholesale downgrading of services.”

Health workers have been voting in a ballot which could see half a million strike. Four unions could take part in the action.

Ballot

The ballot of the largest union in the health service, Unison, was set to end on Thursday of this week.

The ballot has been formally over pay cuts from the Tories, but health workers are angry about so much more.

Karen said, “Members see the privatisation and tendering processes that are going on. 

“The anti-trade union laws have made it difficult to generalise and connect with the anger that workers feel over what is happening to the NHS.

“So there is a gap in how people feel and what the ballot is aiming for. Pay is just one issue in many.”

The experience of the pensions sellout after 30 November 2011 has meant that many workers don’t feel confident that the union is serious about a fight.

Workers have been asked to vote whether to strike and on action short of a strike.

If they vote yes union leaders are proposing a four-hour strike in October. This is likely to take place in the same week as, but separate from, the local government strike.

“If the vote is low that should not be interpreted as workers not wanting to fight,” said Karen.

“We will need a serious strategy to fight that will motivate members and chime with their anger about what is going on in the health service.”

 


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