St Thomas's Hospital RCN strike. Photo London SP
St Thomas's Hospital RCN strike. Photo London SP

Save our NHS
Kick out the Tories
All out on Budget Day, 15 March

Gareth Bromhall, Ambulance service worker, Swansea

6 February will be the biggest strike in NHS history.

Working in the NHS in 2023 means working in a system that has been systematically underfunded, understaffed, and bled dry by profiteers. It’s not a system that has failed, it’s a system that is being failed.

As a worker in the ambulance service, I see daily the results of decades of these ideological attacks on the NHS.

One of the biggest reforms won by the working class in our history, and once the envy of the world, we now see beds blocked due to savage cuts in social care, days spent waiting in corridors until beds become available, and paramedics spending whole shifts sat in ambulances outside emergency departments.

Recently, on a picket locally, I heard of some crews working a full shift in the back of an ambulance, going home to rest and coming back the next day to the same patient, in the same ambulance for half of the next day.

When NHS workers see headlines about safe staffing on strike days, or mandated minimum service levels – stripping us of our right to strike – we know the reality of our wards, our clinics, and contact centres where safe staffing is so often far from achieved – or only achieved by paying billions to private sector agencies while NHS vacancies continue to mount.

This is why I have taken two days of strike action since December, and why I am taking four more over the next two months. I see my pay packet being worth less month on month, I see colleagues leaving and recruitment faltering.

Talk of strike action is ever-present in my workplace, where three unions are currently taking action and a fourth is balloting. The 6 February will see GMB, Unite and Unison in the ambulance service, and the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) striking together in England and Wales, in a step forward for coordinated action in the health service.

Budget Day, 15 March, is an excellent chance to coordinate with other unions already striking, and build towards a full programme of coordinated strike action across the NHS.

1 February, with 500,000 workers taking action, was a great start. But widening this out, involving NHS workers, nurses, posties, rail workers and others would show the power of the working class and could bring down the Tories.