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From: The Socialist issue 1080, 1 April 2020: PPE, tests, full pay - for all now

Search site for keywords: Coronavirus - Austerity - NHS - Workers - Ambulance - Hospital - Health - Hospitals - Nurses

NHS workers speak out: the propaganda isn't true, austerity has left us unprepared

NHS staff are on the front line, photo DFID/CC

NHS staff are on the front line, photo DFID/CC   (Click to enlarge)

We've known for weeks and still there's not enough kit

We have had many weeks to get ready to deal with coronavirus. It's a shame that only in the last couple of weeks things are actually happening.

I work in an East Midlands NHS hospital. From porter right up to consultant, we are concerned. There were a few days when almost all admitted patients were tested for Covid-19. Now there is just the odd couple that gets checked.

So we get people who are coughing all over everything and everyone in a four-bed bay. Some go home; suddenly, a few days on, some other patients from that bay are poorly with symptoms and get moved to side rooms.

I dread to think how many patients have been infected on the ward, and how many we have sent to their homes to infect other residents, family, their community and the people who look after them. We only get a flimsy mask and apron to look after 'awaiting results' patients.

Seems like not testing saves kit and just may get rid of the old and the weak. Staff may still be held accountable for spreading the virus! When concerns are raised, we usually hear: "We will look into it." Good luck everyone.

Lucy, NHS worker

Austerity ambulance service filling gaps with non-clinical staff

We must remember, at the end of all this, that they implemented so many cuts that we arrived at this point.

Retired paramedics are being called back in. Final-year paramedic students are being encouraged to finish their course early. They are supposed to have finished their placements first, but the universities don't really care about that - they just are saying 'go, go, go!'

At the ambulance trust I am doing my placement with, we have 3,500 workers, including people on the phones - but currently 1,000 of us are having to self-isolate. We are at the highest pressure point on the pressure scale, to the point that they are putting non-clinical people alongside clinical staff just to get more hands out there.

They say they can't afford to give personal protective equipment (PPE) to students who are going to work. And now staff are not being allowed to wear PPE. They can only wear them for cardiac arrests, nothing else. And nothing is being said by the leadership of our union, Unison.

A paramedic student

Pandemic response is causing hidden damage

Over years of budget cuts in the NHS we have learnt to be hugely adaptable as we struggle to maintain services to our patients. From a hospital providing every specialism, we are now a Covid-19 treatment centre.

Other patients have been shipped out, and areas have gone from 'dirty' to 'clean' and back again at a moment's notice. The hospital itself is on lockdown - no one gets in without their badge.

Unlike many other hospitals who are struggling for PPE, we have demanded and got masks for all patient-facing areas - although it's been left to clinical staff to make sure maintenance and cleaners get theirs.

Of course, we are hugely worried about ventilators and intensive care provision. But what about other services, like cancer care? Breast screening is being shut down in many areas.

Much of our trauma services are being picked up by the private sector. This provision should be taken over and controlled by the National Health Service to prevent the usual profit-driven chaos we already get from Care UK and the like.

The damage this will do is entirely hidden. And we will have a hell of a fight to restore these services when this is all over!

An NHS health professional

Applause is touching - but bosses only call us heroes when it suits

As much as seeing the support for the NHS, and by extension myself and my colleagues, is quite touching and overwhelming - we're not heroes, we're ordinary workers. We're no different to the builders, the engineers, the retail workers.

We're being called heroes in the media now. Yet we weren't heroes when the junior doctors were forced into strike action in 2016, or when management threatens to close emergency departments or whole hospitals, or when low pay forces nurses to foodbanks in order to feed their families.

We're heroes when it suits the bosses and their media. But will we be heroes in two years when we're asking for a wage rise? Or heroes when we ask for safe staffing levels?

We're not heroes - we want simple things. A wage we can afford to live on, enough staff to deliver safe care, and an NHS we can be proud of. After this crisis, remember that, and fight for the NHS.

Matt Whale, NHS nurse

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Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our special coronavirus appeal.

Please donate here.

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