Socialist Worker

NHS cuts kill - strike to defend our health service

Issue No. 2434

Nurse Stuart Beddows killed himself—and the ­pressure of work tipped him over the edge. 

Stuart worked as a nurse for 15 years in Walsall Manor Hospital’s endoscopy department. 

Walsall NHS Trust boss Richard Kirby admitted, “The outcome of the inquest reflected our own internal review that Stuart was experiencing a high level of stress in the workplace.” 

But this isn’t an isolated ­incident, and health workers are under growing pressure. 

This is one reason why the Unison union has called a new wave of strikes.

Stuart’s mother Maureen explained to the Birmingham Mail, “It was always a very stressful position, as any nursing job dealing with people’s lives is. 

“But as time went on the stress and pressure built up—it became harder to reach the targets.”

The NHS is facing an acute staffing crisis. 

In just six months acute health trust workers filed more than 4,000 complaints about staff shortages. 

They also made over 1,300 complaints about shifts being filled by under-qualified staff. 

Dudley nurse Matt spoke to Socialist Worker about the pressure facing health workers.

“There’s a constant reminder from the NHS Trust that you need to ‘save’ money,” he said.

Losses

“The threat of job losses hangs over health workers—the trust says it needs to make ‘savings’ equivalent to 400 salaries. 

“We’ve also been told that there’s a recruitment freeze. 

“But at the same time workloads are constantly going up and many departments are in crisis.

“Then there’s the looming threat of departments being privatised.”

Accident and Emergency (A&E) and ambulance services in the West Midlands said last week that both are “stretched to the limit”. 

Ambulance bosses said that last Saturday workers had responded to 3,500 emergency calls by midnight.

That’s a rate of nearly 150 an hour—close to that of New Year’s Eve, usually its busiest time. 

Heartlands Hospital in Birmingham struggled to find enough beds, with patients put on trolleys in corridors.

This meant that ambulance workers couldn’t respond to new backed up 999 calls. 

But the crisis in the ambulance service is just the sharp end of much bigger problems. 

Labour has promised to halt NHS privatisation. 

But it remains committed to Tory spending cuts.

However the NHS strikes showed the real alternative to Tory cuts and privatisation rather than voting for Labour at the general election. 

Unison has announced further strikes in the NHS in the new year on Thursday 29 January and on 25 February. 

Unison national executive member Karen Reissmann told Socialist Worker in a personal capacity, “This is an important escalation in the health dispute.

“Workers aren’t just striking about pay, but to defend the NHS.

“That’s why the last strikes were so popular and well supported.” 

Every activist needs to build for more action that can win.   

All trade unionists can organise solidarity and rallies to support local NHS picket lines on the strike days.

 

 


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Tue 16 Dec 2014, 16:52 GMT
Issue No. 2434
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