Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/1082/30625
NHS nurse: we're not wasting PPE - the Tories don't value us
An NHS nurse
Tory health secretary Matt Hancock is blundering from one calamity to the next. It's a disgrace that he accuses us of wasting personal protective equipment (PPE).
Myself and everyone working in the NHS have been overwhelmed by the incredible support from the public. The Thursday community clap for key workers brings tears to the eyes of overstretched staff.
In contrast, the Tories are skimping on vital equipment and showing what they value: money, not frontline staff and the general public.
"There's enough PPE to go round," says Hancock, "but only if it's used in line with our guidance. We need everyone to treat PPE like the precious resource that it is. That means only using it when there's a clinical need, and not using more than is needed." This has sparked outrage.
The guidelines are fraught with mixed messaging. The national message to NHS trusts about PPE seems to change daily. In my trust, we've gone from PPE to be worn only if the patient has confirmed Covid-19, to facemask and gown for any patients suspected of Covid-19, to wearing PPE at all times.
And we are still unhappy with the guidelines for looking after confirmed Covid-19 patients. It ought to be full covering from head to toe. Instead, we're told only to use eye, mouth and hand protection plus a gown. There's a genuine worry the virus will be on exposed parts.
What's more, my trust is yet to face the spike of positive cases other areas have had - but PPE here is already sparse.
Trust the workers
It's positive that the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has issued its own PPE guidelines. Other unions should also issue guidelines. The question we have to ask is: who should we trust on PPE?
The Tories in Westminster who have attacked the NHS for a decade or more? Or the workers on the front line doing the job itself? A central demand for trade unionists should be independent workers' control of PPE guidelines, and oversight of PPE production and distribution.
The heart-breaking death toll of NHS staff and other key workers rises almost daily. We get reports from across the NHS of workers putting themselves at risk, wearing homemade or substandard PPE, as they care for critically ill patients. It's a national scandal.
NHS workers' caring and self-sacrificing nature is being exploited by the capitalists and their politicians. We routinely refuse breaks and work unpaid overtime to meet the huge pressures their cuts and privatisation have put on the health service.
Now we're pressured into working despite unsafe PPE levels. Workers' lives are on the line! Even the traditionally conservative RCN has instructed members that they should refuse to work if the correct PPE continues to be unavailable.
It's NHS staff who are the most precious of all our resources. Every single worker should be entitled to every ounce of the very best PPE.
The current crisis highlights the importance of the NHS. It's clear the Tories and big business cannot be left in charge of it. We need a mass campaign led by the trade unions and NHS workers, drawing in the wider community.
We must demand the reversal of all cuts and renationalisation of every privatised service in the health system. Nationalise the big pharmaceuticals and medical suppliers too, to end their parasitic leeching off the NHS.
Give all NHS workers the living pay rise we deserve. Scrap student debt, and implement free training with living grants for all.
And fight for democratic workers' control and management of the health service. NHS workers and service users should make the decisions in the NHS.
The bosses and their politicians see good health as a privilege, not a right. Ever since its inception, the capitalists have attacked the NHS as a luxury capitalism can't afford.
The only way to guarantee a fully resourced NHS for the future is to take the capitalists out of power for good. A democratically planned socialist economy would organise resources for the needs of society, not the profits of the bosses.
In The Socialist 14 April 2020:
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