Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/444/5269
NHS: Rebellion over hospital cuts
REBELLION IS growing in Gloucestershire against vicious New Labour NHS cuts.
A week after a 6,000 protest in the Forest of Dean, one in 25 of the population of Stroud poured out onto the streets as 4,000 people voiced their anger.
Chris Moore, Stroud
The Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) plan to destroy Stroud services by closing a hospital for older people with mental health needs, one of the country's top midwife-led maternity hospitals and cutting in-patient services at the general hospital.
They claim there is no alternative because their priority is to claw back a £45 million deficit. So to save money the plan is to centralise care in Gloucester where services are already overstretched.
For example, at the main unit treating people with severe mental health needs it's not uncommon for patients to return from a home visit to find their belongings packed into black bin liners. If there has been an emergency admission, pressure on beds means existing patients may have to find alternative services.
If these cuts go ahead more and more families will be forced to care for elderly relatives with mental health needs, with all the stress and pressure that brings.
Campaigns against the PCT's plans to close nine hospitals are up and running in the Forest of Dean, Cheltenham and Stroud. The Socialist Party has called for the campaigns to link up and demand no cuts to our services, so as to avoid the possible pitfall of some hospitals being saved at the expense of others closing.
This means rejecting the PCT's proposals and demanding the government pays off the deficit. Local services can only be saved if more national funding is forced out of the New Labour government. If Gloucestershire received the national average NHS funding per head it would be enough to cancel the whole PCT deficit.
Our demand for a national demonstration to link NHS campaigns around the country and to build for industrial action is a vital first step in the battle to save our NHS.
Meetings and demonstrations
MANCHESTER Defend the NHS demonstration
11:30 a.m. Saturday 24 June
Assemble: Victoria Station (at Walkers Croft)
Called by Greater Manchester Keep Our NHS Public, UNISON Pennine Acute, UNISON Manchester Community and Mental Health, Manchester Trades Council.
WYTHENSHAWE Launch meeting of "Save the baby unit" campaign to save the neonatal (premature baby) unit at Wythenshawe
Sunday 25 June, 3pm, St Francis Community Centre, Greenbrow Rd., Newall Green, Wythenshawe.
Demonstration. Assemble Whipps Cross Hospital, Saturday 1 July 11am.
WEST LONDON. Save Charing Cross jobs and services
Tuesday 27 June, 7pm. Bishop Creighton House, 374-380 Lillie Road, SW6
Nurses qualify - but where are the jobs?
ABOUT 20,000 nurses will graduate this year but because of the cuts in the NHS, up to half of them may struggle just to get employment.
The socialist youth organisations International Socialist Resistance and Socialist Students are starting a "Student Nurses against NHS Cuts" campaign. Below, a student nurse explains the pressures of life both before and after graduation.
"PEOPLE IN my year qualify in September 2007. Some students are burying their heads in the sand, thinking the crisis will be sorted by the time we qualify. But what if it's not? What if we're qualified nurses but there's no jobs out there?
Even now, if there's less qualified nurses there's less people to train us. The last ward I was on there were 22 students because so many wards had been cut down into one.
International Socialist Resistance and Socialist Students leaflet
They'd reduced the wards and the nursing staff so there were two student nurses to one staff nurse. That's not the best way to learn - it's meant to be one to one.
Everyone always asks what are you going to specialise in? But I won't have the option to specialise anymore. I'll have to just take the first job that comes to me. I had this plan to get a job on AAU (Acute Admissions Unit) and then move on to A&E. But that is so unreal now. I'll have to go wherever there's a job.
A lot of people do the diploma course at university because that's all they can afford. Before, if you wanted to do the degree, you'd find a job on a ward and they'd pay for you to top up your diploma into a degree in the area you wanted to specialise in. Now that is out of the question because they won't have the money to do it.
Things are getting worse and I can't see how that's going to suddenly get better unless we do something about it.
BEFORE THESE cutbacks, student nurses used to survive by doing health care assistantships with an agency - A grade shifts. So you'd be on shift on placement Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and perhaps you'd then have a day off when you could choose to do a bank shift.
The pay was all right. It still is...if you can get a shift. You could just do a bank shift once a month because it was good money for student nurses but that's completely gone now. So I find myself reapplying to the hellhole of high street shop work because I do like food sometimes!
It's difficult because any retail job, or any job that's not health agency, will say they need to contract you for certain hours in the week. So I asked my university lecturer can you please explain to our placement areas what's happening and how we may not able to be as flexible as we once could have been.
The response? "No - we can't do that. For student nurses the placement comes first". We appreciate that but times are changing and the universities seem untouched by what's happening in the real world.
The universities have not been affected by the cuts...as yet. But we can't survive on our bursaries without the agency shifts. We get £571 a month. We're exempt from council tax but that's not enough to live on in London.
I had to move out of my student nurses' accommodation after being without hot water for six months. I found a shared house with some other students for £255 a month which is relatively cheap for London. Then I spend about £70 on travel and the utility bills just go up and up.
We don't have the option to do that many shifts in retail or factory jobs and the universities say they can do nothing to help us. We don't get a break over the summer where we can work and earn money to live on during term time.
But we really enjoy the work. I'm doing something useful, so different from working on the high street telling people they look nice in some dress you know they probably can't afford anyway.
And until now student nurses could have expected a guaranteed job in the NHS. Now we have to think about going to Canada or not think about it or panic!
A friend in a hospital up north has been working shifts for free. She checked the rota and saw there was not enough cover on the following day - her day off. She asked if she could work but was told there wasn't any money for overtime. She went in anyway without getting paid because her patients would suffer otherwise. This is a crisis.
In lectures now, students shout back at lecturers who make the case for the cuts. The bargain that student nurses make with the NHS was always that you don't get good pay, you work long hours but you're guaranteed some money to get through your studies, a secure job and a sense of value. Now all of that is going and some of us are ready to fight for those rights and for the patients.">Download ISR Student Nurses against NHS cuts leaflet pdf here (200K)>
Copies of the 'Student nurses against NHS cuts' leaflets are available from ISR/ Socialist Students, PO Box 858, London E11 1YG. Or from www.anticapitalism.org.uk or firstname.lastname@example.org or from www.socialiststudents.org.uk or from email@example.com
Kent Public Sector Action
RECENT ATTACKS on public services in Kent include 300 posts cut by Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust and the privatisation of the NHS Logistics depot in Maidstone.
That's why Kent Public Sector Action (KPSA) has been set up. Socialist Party branches are working with trade union branches and community groups to build KPSA.
KPSA aims to establish groups in all the major towns of the county, and to bring them together to oppose privatisation, casualisation and attacks on pensions and job security locally and county-wide.
In The Socialist 15 June 2006:
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Socialist Party campaigns
Socialist Party review
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news