The Tories’ plans to ram through “seven day working” in the NHS will hit health workers and patients hard.
Ministers are ramping up the propaganda war to justify an attack on pay and conditions with talk of lazy workers and lack of access for patients.
Sakina is a nurse at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital NHS Trust in south London. She told Socialist Worker, “We’ve always had a 24-hour, seven day a week NHS. I work night and day shifts, and on the weekend.”
The government’s attempt to make staff work longer for less will affect patients too. The staffing crisis in the NHS and rocketing workloads are already hitting patient care.
Sakina said, “Health workers are already being driven out of the NHS, and we’re heavily reliant on agency and new staff. The quality of the service is not as good as it was.
“You’re constantly rushed. You’re compromising the patients’ care and lives. If you’re tired, looking after lots of patients and having to help agency and new staff, then your concentration will go.
“This opens the door to errors. They’re not paper errors in the NHS—we’re dealing with people’s lives.”
Tory justice minister Michael Gove was supposedly left out on a limb recently when he couldn’t get an X-ray for a fractured foot on a Sunday.
But he went to a minor injuries unit, which don’t have 24-hour radiology because of underfunding. Another hospital just a mile away did.
The Tories now want surgery and outpatient clinics to run on weekends. Sakina said this was “unrealistic” as bosses “won’t get the staff.”
The Tories want to scrap the unsocial hours pay that’s essential to many workers. The pay review body instead recommended pushing the start back from 8pm to 10pm and possibly scrapping Saturday pay.
But the attack is still coming—and it isn’t just about pay. The Tories hope lower wages will make the NHS more attractive for privatising firms (see below). Their attacks are a disaster for patients.
East Kent Hospitals NHS Trust said last week that chemotherapy patients in Ashford will be forced to get their treatment in mobile buses in the car park. The hospital’s own chemo unit was closed due to a staff shortage.
Staffing is critical for patient care. Sakina said, “Patients are brought to us sedated and it’s our job to wake them up. They’re disorientated and don’t know where they are—many don’t even realise they’ve had the operation.
“This is the moment when you need to sit down with them.
“You can’t just say, ‘We’re keeping an eye on you because of your heart’ and then just walk away. Patients aren’t medical people. Every bleep on the machine worried one of my patients last week—they thought that they were dying.
“When I sat down and explained their situation to them, they said they wished someone had done it before.
“With the ‘seven day’ changes it will only get worse—there will be no humanity in the NHS.”