The NHS is short of more than 100,000 workers as the health service goes into its busiest period during the holidays and new year. It is another sign of the devastating impact of Tory cuts and privatisation.
Some hospitals have up to 1,600 unfilled posts, according to new Freedom of Information requests published by the Labour Party.
South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust is the NHS’s largest provider of mental health services in England. It also has the largest number of unfilled posts at 1,258 and a vacancy rate of 23 percent.
The impact of staff shortages has been made worse by a chronic lack of beds—and it’s already having an impact on patients.
High risk patients are having to wait weeks to get access to beds at the Maudsley, according to a Care Quality Commission (CQC) watchdog report. “Staff gave an example of waiting 25 days to complete an assessment for a patient who presented a risk to themselves and others,” the report noted.
Poverty pay and rocketing workloads have pushed workers out of the NHS. And this situation is made worse by outsourcing of hospital services, which pushes down wages and terms and conditions to boost profits.
Daniella is the GMB union rep for outsourced cleaners and domestics at the Maudsley hospital. “We work in a mental health unit and struggle to do our jobs in a safe environment,” she told Socialist Worker.
“You have doctors and nurses, but without us they can’t do their work.”
“If the cleaners didn’t clean, the hospital would be infected. If domestics didn’t feed their patients, they wouldn’t get better.”
The cleaners rallied outside the Maudsley during their morning breaks on Monday to kick start their campaign for the London Living Wage of £10.20 hour.
Across the road Kings College Hospital, part of another NHS trust, has been put into “special measures” due to a rocketing deficit. Hospital boss Lord Kerslake resigned last week demanding more funding.
The new chair Ian Smith is a former chair of private firm Four Seasons health care.
Frank Wood is branch secretary of the Unite union, which organised an emergency protest outside the hospital on Monday. “When the bankers come in they’re going to say another £50 million in cuts,” he told Socialist Worker.
“We can’t take it.”
He added, “We can’t go on signing strongly worded letters, doing this is a staging post for getting a coalition together.”
Many on the protest looked to a Labour government to end the Tory attacks.
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn promised to “renationalise” the NHS. But, partly due to pressures from the Labour right, the manifesto only promised to make the NHS the “preferred bidder” for contracts.
Only a sharp injection of cash, scrapping the internal market and throwing out the privateers can begin to solve the NHS crisis. And that can’t wait for a Labour government—the national union leaderships need to fight now.