NHS and health

Requisition resources for the NHS

Discussions about the state of the National Health Service are remarkably muted given the desperate reality. NHS campaigners, the left and the labour movement need to introduce a real sense of alarm — and clear, appropriately radical solutions. In the Guardian earlier this month, one doctor wrote about her difficulty even getting an emergency ambulance for a baby with falling oxygen levels. She commented that “this incident was only one of many examples I could quote which illustrate how close basic medical care is to collapsing in the UK”. The Financial Times has found that 2,047 more people...

To curb Omicron, requisition Big Pharma

On 23 November South African medical authorities identified the Omicron variant of the virus behind Covid. It had probably been circulating for a while before that, and has already spread to many countries. This sharpens the urgency of requisitioning the patents and other assets of Big Pharma. It focuses three facts: 1. Covid can’t be abolished by a lockdown or even a vaccination drive. Governments which say they will “send coronavirus packing” are blustering. 2. Curbs like mask mandates, work-from-home rules, vax-or-test rules for entering higher-risk spaces, and even full lockdowns, only...

Hospital security guards to strike 6-9 December

Outsourced security guards at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) in central London will strike from 6-9 December, demanding parity with directly-employed NHS workers’ pay and conditions. The strike follows the successful struggle of outsourced cleaners at GOSH to win in-house employment and NHS contracts. Following the cleaners’ victory, security guards voted unanimously for industrial action. Security guard Samuel Awittor said: “We are going on strike because we feel that we have not been treated fairly and we’ve been discriminated against. GOSH is made up of departments of families. If you...

Diary of a paramedic: The worst in twenty years

I’ve been off the road on a secondment and returned to station for the first time in six months this week. The changes in that time are dramatic. The situation for crews and patients is by far the worst I’ve ever seen it in twenty years on the road. On my first day back we’ve just about checked the vehicle when a job comes through. Nothing new there. We visit an unresponsive man. It takes a while to get to the bottom of the situation. He appears to be suffering from an extreme stress reaction. His carer says he has been deteriorating over the last year after having little contact with his...

Votes on pay action in health and local government

The health unions are carrying out their second round of membership votes on the 2021 NHS pay award of 3%. GMB is holding a formal industrial action ballot which closes on 15 December, Unison’s second informal consultation closes on 5 December, and the RCN’s on 30 November. Across the unions the proportions of members voting in the first rounds were not high enough to meet the legal threshold for industrial action, and so the main objective of the current ballots is to increase the turnout. In some areas the campaign has had more energy this time, and in these last weeks activists should...

Take midwives' cause into the labour movement

Thousands of midwives, a significant proportion of the 50,000 in the UK, joined demonstrations across the country on 21 November, along with other birth workers and supporters. They want more resources to improve overstretched maternity services, the working conditions of midwives, and the care they provide to mothers and babies. It is all part of the wider NHS squeeze. The map of protests put together by the new March for Midwives social media group which called the action indicates there were at least 80, all over the UK. There were substantial turnouts even in places you might not expect...

Requisition capacity and boost pay for NHS and care!

Thanks to over a decade of budget squeezes, the NHS is already stretched beyond capacity. And it’s not yet winter. A backlog of ailments from nearly two years of intermittent lockdowns, and lack of care home space for patients who could be moved there, has already flooded hospitals. In 2020 the government paid for private hospital capacity to help the NHS with Covid. So, now? Immediately requisition all private-hospital capacity and staff, and integrate them with the NHS. The labour movement should also demand that the government boost NHS and care staff levels by immediately meeting NHS...

The NHS emergency, Covid, and the coming winter

The NHS is already packed to capacity. The Tories' stonewall on NHS pay (3% offer, when inflation is nearing 5%), and accumulated stress, keep the NHS staff shortage acute. Flu rates are still low, but then flu usually takes off only from December. A flu spike, on top of the Covid stress and the backlog from lockdowns, could overflow NHS capacity. Since 21 October, soon after some five weeks of rising counts pushed NHS bosses and scientists to call for restoration of mild Covid restrictions, Covid case counts have been falling in Britain. Elsewhere in western Europe they have been rising...

Cycling is safer than driving

Michael Elms’ article “Couriers’ strike threat forces u-turn” (Solidarity 611) is inspiring and informative. But one section of it misses the point and is bad in its implication. Michael writes: “Moreover, where Scoober has taken over delivery operations, drivers have been obliged to switch from cars to electric bicycles. That means harder work, more danger from crime and more risk of death by road collision.” Contrary to widely held beliefs, cycling is safer than driving. People who commute to work by bike instead of driving have substantially lower risks of death, and longer life expectancy...

Restore the NHS for winter!

The daily count of new Covid cases is averaging around 40,000. It has been above 25,000 since mid-July. Thanks to vaccinations, the death count is about one-tenth of the early-2021 peak, and the hospital-admission count about a quarter, but both are edging up even before winter sets in. Years of budget-paring have set hospitals to operate with no leeway even in ordinary winters. The NHS has to deal with a big backlog. Flu rates are for now unusually low, and rates for the other common virus RSV modest, but they could well surge. We need increased funding, including to increase NHS workers’ pay...

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