Socialist Worker

How hospital workers coped with London bombing victims — despite cuts and privatisation

Issue No. 1960

Health workers were another group of emergency service workers who performed tirelessly last week to save lives.

But, as staff at UCLH hospital in central London told Socialist Worker, New Labour’s policies of creeping health service privatisation could have exacerbated the disaster last week.

“UCLH is a new PFI hospital. It is not yet at full capacity,” said a Unison union rep at the hospital. “The accident and emergency department is so small that not everybody injured in the bombings was sent there.

“The CT scanners in the basement are not up and running. The sewage pipes burst and they had to be cleaned in the middle of the emergency. There is only one entrance, so ambulances were backing up.

“This is a brand new hospital with antiquated equipment. It can’t afford to buy proper drip stands or nursing equipment.

“Despite this, in an emergency situation staff came together. It was only staff dedication that saw us through last week.

“Many of the problems we have had with the hospital would not have come about in a properly funded NHS hospital. And under the PFI deal around 600 workers are set to lose their jobs.”

A nurse at UCLH added, “Even on a normal day the hospital struggles to cope, but people pulled together and through. When there’s a major incident people just come in to work to help out.

“The mood will go two ways after this. Some will back Tony Blair, but others will say that the bombs that were dropped in Iraq are now exploding in London.

“We need more staff, but the number is being reduced. There aren’t enough nurses on the night shift. People are going to be reinterviewed for their own jobs. I have never seen nurses as angry as this before.”

Another nurse said, “Because public transport was messed up it was hard for people to get in. No one can afford to live near where they work because of low pay and the high price of housing.

“How can we ensure we have proper cover if something like this happens again? The hospital was overstretched. Something like this shows up the flaws in the system.”

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Sat 16 Jul 2005, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1960
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