Socialist Worker

NHS students' fightback over bursaries can fuel united struggle against Tories

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2485

Nurses protest outside the Department of Health last December

Nurses protest outside the Department of Health last December (Pic: Julie Sherry)


Anger at the Tory assault on the NHS is spreading as health care students and their supporters were set to march in central London this Saturday.

Tory health secretary Jeremy Hunt plans to axe bursaries for student nurses, midwives, occupational therapists and others.

But the campaign to defend them is gaining momentum and support from other health workers.

Danielle is a student nurse in London and one of the main organisers.

She told Socialist Worker, “They’re trying to privatise the NHS and to drive it into the ground.

“If we don’t fight now, we’ll lose the NHS.”

Cuts and privatisation have pushed the health service into crisis.

New rules force hospitals to pay interest on loans used for day to day running costs. Interest payments are projected to double to £150 million in the coming year.

The NHS already faces its largest black hole of £2.2 billion.

Three quarters of NHS trusts ended 2015 deep in deficit with acute trusts, which run major hospitals, trebling their deficits to £958 million in 2014-15.

National Audit Office chief Amyas Morse said that “running a deficit seems to have become normal practice”.

Now the Tories are making health workers and patients pay for their disastrous policies.

Hunt boasted that a “clampdown” on “rip-off staffing agencies” has saved £248 million.

Rocketing 

But the bill is still mounting as poverty pay and rocketing workloads are pushing health workers out of the NHS.

Danielle said, “The problem is not the training places—it’s the underfunding and demoralisation.”

In the crisis-ridden Barts Health NHS Trust in east London there’s a shortage of 1,200 nurses.

“When you’re on placement you can see how it’s changing and the pressure that health workers are under.

“As a student I have breaks, but nurses don’t because they want to do the best for their patients,” she explained.

“That not fair on them.”

Hunt has tried to justify this latest attack by claiming it will fund a further 10,000 training places.

But Danielle said, “Nurses also struggle to accommodate us for training because of the shortages and my university is already running at full capacity.

“How will they accommodate another 10,000?”

But these attacks are fuelling a real possibility of a united fight to defend the NHS and force Hunt out.

Danielle said, “We’re getting lots of support and the junior doctors have really supported us—we’re definitely in this together.”

Junior doctor Yannis Gourtsoyannis said, “This really shows how the Tories are disaffecting the NHS workforce—whether that’s over unsocial hours pay or bursaries.

“Their fight is our fight—and our fight is their fight.”


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