NHS and health

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...

Women's Fightback: Anti-vaxxers harm pregnant people

One in six critically ill Covid-19 patients in England are unvaccinated pregnant women, NHS England has announced. Of the 118 Covid-19 patients in England who received extra corporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) between July and September, 20 of them were pregnant. ECMO is usually given to critically ill people who have not responded to going on a ventilator. Of the 20 pregnant women who received ECMO, just one had been vaccinated — though she had only received one dose. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has been advising that pregnant people should be offered Covid-19...

Silence at Labour conference on NHS pay

Trade unions, the Labour left and Labour NHS campaigners failed to raise the issue of NHS pay at Labour Party conference – or, more exactly, did not try. Rank-and-file NHS workers, organised through NHS Workers Say No, Nurses United and other networks as well as their various unions, are focusing on a difficult struggle to get industrial action off the ground. Some of them were invited to speak at various fringe meetings at the conference. But beyond that minimal gesture there was little attempt by unions and Labour activists present at the conference to use it to boost NHS workers’ campaign...

NHS pay: move to formal ballots!

As the backpay for the 3% pay award, due from April, arrived in the pockets of NHS workers this month, the simultaneous rise in cost of living reinforced how worthless it was. For many health workers the miserly 3% has also tipped us into the next pension bracket, meaning that our take-home pay each month is actually less than it was, and we owe our Trusts pension payments from April. Many of us are being told this will be taken out in one chunk next month, just before Christmas. This is the latest background to the ongoing dispute on NHS pay. A decade of pay restraint, ever-increasing...

A win for teenagers' rights

The Court of Appeal have overruled the Bell v Tavistock judgement. This is good news for young trans people under 18. It means that they are no longer legally obliged to get permission from the court to receive puberty blockers. It is also good news for other young people whose ability to make choices about medical treatments rests on “Gillick competency”. “Gillick competency” is based on a legal case in 1985 in which Victoria Gillick was defeated in her attempt to rescind NHS guidance which allowed under 18s to access contraception without parental approval. The original Bell v Tavistock...

Covid: the bother with boosters

The British government is acting as if it has opted for extra jabs as its first line against the probable new Covid surge in winter. Those, rather than social improvements (ventilation, workers’ control of workplace safety, full isolation pay for all, boosting the NHS and reversing privatisation, improved housing, improved social care) or mild restrictions (mandatory mask-wearing and work-from-home, limits on indoor crowding). While the government has spent billions on extra vaccines, and test-trace contracts of dubious efficacy, it still stonewalls on proper isolation pay for workers in...

Push for action on NHS pay!

Members of the main health unions have overwhelmingly rejected the government’s 3% NHS pay award. RCN rejected by 91.7% (in Wales 93.9%), Unison by 80%, and GMB by 93%. Unison and GMB included willingness to take industrial action in their informal ballot. These votes show the activist base of the unions is ready to take action. The decisive figure for action, under the anti-trade union laws, was always going to be the turnout. There, the news is not positive. RCN turnout was 25.4% (29.3% in Wales), and Unison, 29%. GMB have not released their turnout figures, presumably meaning they did not...

Social care: tax the rich!

Social care needs a transformation comparable to the transformation of UK healthcare seven decades ago through the NHS. It seems likely such a policy, for a public care and support system, would be popular, if strong enough voices argued for it. At the moment the forces campaigning for anything like it are weak, but the issue is centre-stage as never before. When the Tories produced their “plan for social care” — taxing workers more to produce extra money for the NHS and a much smaller amount for care services (later) — the Labour Party embarrassed itself by its lack of alternative ideas. Now...

Clearing the NHS backlog

The treatment backlog threatening the NHS is a symptom not just of the pandemic, but of long-worsening problems that preceded it and sharpened its impact. Last week the backlog hit a record high of 5.6 million people. It is currently growing by 150,000 a month. Health Secretary Sajid Javid has said that the figure could rise as high as 13 million. Presumably Javid is trying to drum up support for the Tories’ attack on workers’ incomes to raise more funds for the health service; but the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), for instance, has sketched out what seem like plausible scenarios in...

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