The Socialist 4 September 2013 |
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NHS: action to improve care
Becky Jackson, Staff nurse
Whipps Cross, east London, is one of many hospitals mired in crisis. Following a merger with three other hospital trusts, Whipps Cross is run by the Barts Health NHS Trust, which is crippled by Private Finance Initiative (PFI) debts.
Having announced a cuts programme of £77.5 million last month - the largest of any NHS trust - this financial crisis will inevitably damage services and compound the already impossible working conditions of staff caring for Whipps patients.
In a series of unannounced inspections, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the care regulators, found that Whipps had "systemic failings", breaching ten of the 16 national standards for quality and safety of care.
NHS campaigners want only the best care in our hospitals and should constantly take action against failings.
But there is little doubt that the CQC reports are written with current political priorities in mind.
The government and their stooges in NHS trusts across the country will stop at nothing to achieve their goal of stripping down, breaking up and privatising NHS services.
And in the wake of both the Francis Report, detailing the crisis at Mid Staffs and the Keogh Review, looking at the quality of care in 14 other hospitals with the highest death rates, the relationship between the board and the ward has never been clearer.
Cuts in services, lack of staff, reductions in bed numbers: all have been highlighted as problems in so-called "failing hospitals".
The drive to pay off the PFI loan sharks and keep up with government "efficiency savings" against a backdrop of an aging population with ever more complex health needs is leaving hundreds of thousands of healthcare professionals and assistants unable to cope with the strain.
In the absence of any statutory staffing levels, ward sisters and charge nurses are left with only flimsy local guidelines to plan the workforce around.
In an attempt to keep costs down, a greater share of the work is being carried out by unregistered healthcare assistants.
Many are not given adequate training and frequently feel unsupported in their jobs, according to a recent poll by the British Journal of Healthcare Assistants.
On top of that, workplace stress, bullying and staff burn-out are becoming more commonplace.
Despite the best attempts of the bosses and media to turn the mood against Whipps Cross, most people can see what is happening.
At Whipps there is a trade union leadership in the local Unison health branch which is prepared to fight and is appealing to the community and other campaigners to get behind it.
The branch has called two protests which will be just the start of the campaign and are prepared to call strike action if necessary.
Further crises on the scale of Mid Staffs are not inevitable. However, the underlying problem - austerity policies - can only be fought with a head-on challenge from the trade unions.
The NHS is under attack. Failures in care will serve as a stick for the Coalition to beat us with, in order to roll out further privatisations.
Only through mass action can we secure a properly funded, publicly owned, high quality NHS for generations to come.
Protest to defend Whipps Cross:
- 5pm Monday 16 September at the hospital main gate
- 12 noon Saturday 21 September march from the Green near the hospital (by Whipps Cross roundabout)
Demonstrate at the Tory party conference to save the NHS!
Sunday 29 September 2013
Assemble at Liverpool Road, Manchester M3 4FP, 11am. Marching to a rally in Whitworth Park