NHS staffing black hole

Matt Whale, student nurse

The NHS is short about 50,000 clinical staff, according to estimates by parliament’s Public Accounts Committee.

For those of us working in it, these results come as little surprise. Huge cuts coupled with the Tories’ dishonest push for a ‘seven-day’ NHS have left hospitals stretched to breaking point.

Socialists and those working in the NHS aren’t necessarily opposed to a seven-day NHS. We give emergency care 24/7 anyway.

But expecting quality non-emergency care seven days a week – on budgets that are struggling to cope with a ‘five-day’ NHS – is a recipe for disaster. Bassetlaw Hospital in Nottinghamshire had to suspend all emergency surgery from 30 April as a result of staffing shortages.

The report also points out the mixed messages sent to trusts. On the one hand, the Tories demand cuts to spending. But on the other, they expect an increase in staff numbers, especially after the damming comments on staffing levels in the Francis Report into the Mid Staffs scandal.

This, of course, is no accident. The establishment is setting the NHS up to fail. By underfunding our health service, the Tories, Blairites, and their pals in private health can attempt to justify private takeover of services trusts can’t afford.

The junior doctors’ dispute is another effect. It’s about more than contract changes, and is now a fight for the NHS itself.

The health unions and Trade Union Congress should call a national demo in support of the NHS and the junior doctors now, with plans for coordinated strike action from the other health unions and beyond.

The NHS wasn’t given to us. Former generations of trade unionists fought for it. Now is the time for the trade union movement to back the junior doctors and fight for the NHS today.