KONHSP lobby of parliament, 14.7.21, photo JB

KONHSP lobby of parliament, 14.7.21, photo JB   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Holly Johnston, Oncology Nurse and GMB member

Rishi Sunak’s announcement of nearly £6 billion for the NHS to help clear the backlog of patients on waiting lists would, at first glance, seem a good investment into the NHS. However, it does nothing to address NHS staff shortages. We need the staff to work through the backlog of patients on waiting lists and 5.7 million awaiting treatment.

Much of the spending will no doubt be ploughed into private companies to provide the service; many diagnostic and IT departments are already heavily outsourced. But the money needs to be given to NHS staff to run services in NHS hospitals, in NHS diagnostic departments.

What happens after the scans and tests have been done? Who delivers the treatment? We cannot work through the millions on treatment lists without addressing the staffing crisis.

There is no investment in decent pay for NHS staff, and no attempt to discontinue student debt. Student nurses come out of university with £60,000 worth of debt to enter a profession where working conditions are worse than ever, workloads are unmanageable and staff are undervalued.

Hospital bed numbers have been halved over the last 30 years. We need immediate investment in beds and to end the staffing crisis. We need to address the core issues of health inequality and delays in treatment that were happening before and during the pandemic. It’s not even winter and we already have ambulances queueing outside hospitals.

Unless there is a determined struggle led by the unions for adequate funding where we need it, including to fund a decent pay rise for all NHS staff, the £6 billion will simply be used to grow private profits while NHS staff struggle on low pay or continue to leave in droves.