NHS and health

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...

NHS workers move against bullying

In Nottingham City Hospitals, 44 Unison members are being asked if they want to take industrial action because of the culture of bullying by management. The workers were told to move from urology to gynaecology theatres randomly to plug gaps. That is unsafe for patients and unfair to workers, but the same sort of thing is happening all over the NHS. Last year, a similar number of different members took out a grievance after being bullied to deal unsafely with the huge numbers dying from Covid. Local MPs both Tory and Labour local MPs have met with management after a report by the Care and...

Local government and health pay: build the campaigns!

Members of GMB and Unite have voted to reject the local government pay offer, with similar percentages to Unison members, who voted by 79% to reject a 1.75% pay increase (2.75% for those on pay point 1). Ballot papers are scheduled to go out to Unison members in early December, asking whether they want to strike to secure an improved pay offer. The union will be asking members to vote yes. Meanwhile, the Joint Trade Union Side have written to the Employers’ Side, asking them to return to the negotiations and make an improved pay offer. Since 2010 the value of local government pay has fallen by...

Covid: action needed for winter

The rising Covid death and hospitalisation counts, only halfway through autumn, make a new case for urgency about isolation pay, improved pay and budgets in the NHS and care, upgrading ventilation, and workers’ control of workplace safety. And for renewing efforts to get jabs to vax-sceptics, and to restore something comparable to the mild Covid curbs, like mask mandates and limits on entry to large indoors public gatherings, in force in other West European countries. The high case count now partly reflects high testing, but the UK’s current death count is two and a half times Germany’s, eight...

In defence of "Gillick competence" on blockers

The decision in the Gillick case allowed doctors to decide when children were able to consent to medical treatment. Doctors are also generally trusted to decide which treatments would be of benefit to their patients. In the case of puberty blockers, the practice established by the NHS specifies that both the child and the parents must consent to treatment. Jack McDonough (Solidarity 608) argues that in defending the idea that children can consent to medical treatment including puberty blockers (Gillick competence), I am also proposing that under 16s should be able to consent to sexual...

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