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From The Socialist newspaper, 4 June 2014

NHS: Night shift and a cold rage

A mental health worker

I'm a psychiatric nurse in a crisis/home treatment capacity in a South Yorkshire mental health trust.

Tonight I worked a night shift. I assessed three very different people in the local A&E department, three people who are all in their own ways victims of austerity.

The first was a young woman who, earlier that day, was subjected to a sexual assault by her partner. Despite experiencing such an awful ordeal, one of the woman's principal anxieties was about money.

With the partner now gone, she realised it will take the DWP weeks to adjust her benefits and having no family living locally, she had no idea where she would find money for food and to pay her payday lender.

In a humane society the victim of such an assault would not have to contend with these worries. But where's the humanity in Iain Duncan Smith's benefits regime?

The second was a resident in a private care home that claims to specialise in accommodating people with mental health problems.

That afternoon the man had got drunk and become troublesome to staff and was sent to hospital in an ambulance, with a request for a mental state assessment.

By the time I spoke to him he had sobered up and calmed down. His behaviour was not the product of mental illness - he is unhappy living in the care home and wishes to live independently.

This is not an issue a crisis worker can address at two in the morning. All I could do was to suggest that he returns to the care home and asks to see his social worker to discuss his placement in the morning.

The care home staff initially refused to take this man back. The A&E sister had to argue with them over the telephone for almost an hour before they relented.

The home charges the local authority 1,200 a week to provide "specialist care" for this man.

Private care homes regularly dump residents they find difficult to manage onto local NHS hospitals and then try to walk away from their duty of care.

I don't actually blame staff in these homes. They're often paid the minimum wage and with minimal staffing levels.

I can understand why they seek to remove individuals who display challenging behaviours.

What makes my blood boil are the owners, who charge the NHS and local councils huge sums of money for services they clearly cannot deliver.

The final assessment was with a woman who had taken an overdose. On benefits and with two teenage sons, she cannot afford to buy her boys new shoes. In a moment of despair she saw suicide as the only way out.

She was tearful and contrite when I spoke to her, ashamed of her actions. Beyond showing compassion, there was little I could actually do for her. The NHS does not have a cure for poverty.

It was a fairly typical night for a mental health crisis team working in Cameron's Britain. We see some people whose difficulties are due to mental illness but for the most part our client group are victims of an inflexible benefits system, of private providers that attempt to shirk their duties of care and of poverty.

Rain fills the sky as I leave the hospital to return to my base. The heavy grey clouds matched my mood.

Back at the office I revive my spirits with coffee and a cigarette. I "officially" gave up smoking six years ago but caffeine and nicotine are the only things keeping me going throughout a night shift.

Like many health professionals, the stresses of the job make me a lousy poster boy for healthy living.

Another typical night and typically I am angry. It's a cold rage that I feel, but a rage of empowerment which steels my determination to fight for socialism and to win the day when the stories I heard tonight become distant memories of a cruel and defeated past.

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In The Socialist 4 June 2014:

Socialist Party news and analysis

Workers can win: Victory for $15 campaign in Seattle

Enough of 'all the same' capitalist politics!

TUSC: Next steps building political voice for workers

Inclusive capitalism? You're having a laugh!

Children handed poverty "life sentence"

Them & Us

International socialist news and analysis

US: How Seattle won a $15 minimum wage

Ireland: Electoral surge against austerity

Socialist Party workplace news

"Enough is enough!" - 1.5m could strike over pay

NHS: We demand a living wage!

Come to NSSN conference!

Unite conference: Fighting policies needed

UCU: Members losing patience with leadership

PCS-Unite merger: Will it strengthen our fightback?

Leeds unions prepare for action

Workplace news in brief

Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Bakers' Union interview: "We can stop race to bottom"

Stevenage: March against the far-right, racist EDL

Rhydyfelin library occupied by protesters

Readers' comments

NHS: Night shift and a cold rage

Building the Socialist Party

Why I joined the Socialist Party

Plan now for the fundraising collectathon

'Join the socialists' week of action

Successful building in east London

Rapid recruitment in Plymouth


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Related links:

Mental health:

triangleTV: Young, British and Depressed - "What is wrong with our society that all these people are feeling this way?"

triangleWest London Socialist Party: The mental health crisis

triangleMidlands mental health workers walk out against privatisation

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triangleFrance Telecom: Privatisation in the dock


triangleBradford: All-out action to defeat backdoor NHS privatisation

triangleTory bribes don't hide destruction of NHS

triangleWales: chronic NHS underfunding exposed

triangleCampaigners force U-turn over NHS privatisation


triangleHealth workers strike against 2,000 loss of pay

triangleHealth visitors strike for the first time ever

triangleIrish health workers' anger boils over into strike action


triangleFighting Universal Credit

triangleCancer stats reveal deep inequality

South Yorkshire:

triangleOrgreave injustice - 35th anniversary march and rally

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