Members of Amicus working in the National Blood Service used Valentine’s day as a platform to draw attention to the threatened closure of local centres. There is a plan to move all blood processing and testing to three large centres in London, Bristol and Manchester. Centralising production raises the risk of deaths if there were to be any delays in its delivery.
Before Christmas a ballot by Amicus produced an 81% vote in favour of industrial action. Staff are hesitant to take such action because of the potential effects on patients. But there is also a reluctance from the union leaders to move to a strike preferring to continue negotiations.
It seems that the all too recent lessons of the NHS Logistics dispute have already been forgotten. Despite numerous consultative ballots in favour of action Unison’s leadership tried to anything but. Protracted negotiations and legal challenges came to nothing in the face of a government determined to privatise. Eventually two days of strike action proved too little to late as the contract with DHL was signed.
Local groups can help build support and the confidence of the workers by organising meetings to support their action and publicising their cause.
900 jobs and 200 beds are under threat at the three hospitals in Leicester. This will effectively be a 10% cut in acute hospital services across the whole of Leicestershire.
The University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust claims that these cuts are clinically driven by the decision of the two Primary Care Trusts in Leicestershire to focus more attention on providing care outside of hospitals but it is clear that the PCTs have no extra resources to keep patients at home and that the cuts in hospital care will result in the same work being done by a smaller workforce with fewer resources.
Leicestershire Health Unison Branch Chair Nick Holden says: “Moving care closer to patients’ homes is a wonderful goal, and one that all health workers work towards, but good quality care at home is actually a more expensive option. The UHL Trust and the Primary Care Trusts are trying to implement it with less money and fewer resources than we need. Experienced health workers will lose their livelihoods, newly qualified nurses will be unemployed, and worst of all, the people of Leicestershire will lose out on quality healthcare provision, both at home and in hospital.”
UHL NHS Trust are continuing with their £711 million PFI project for Leicester’s hospitals despite these cuts and will have to find over £80million for the next thirty years to pay to the private consortium. They are also trying to become a Foundation Trust, which will further destabilise the NHS in Leicestershire.
The new announcement of cuts comes only four months after the last round of “emergency savings” which resulted in a job freeze, training freeze and an end to agency staff and overtime. Unison has called a lobby of the Trust for 9 March and a workers’ petition attracting hundreds of signatures in the first few days.
Lobby the UHL Trust Board Thursday, 8th March. Assemble 12 noon until 1pm, Gwendolen House, Leicester General Hospital.
Manchester community health
In January, health workers in Manchester’s community mental health teams voted 91.6% to strike over cuts being proposed by the city’s mental health and social care trust.
Following two bouts of solid strike action, and a lively campaign of stunts and demonstrations, the trust is now in talks with the union about its proposals. It is still insisting that it cannot rule out compulsory redundancies and that services may be tendered the private sector at some point.
The Unison branch is demanding further strike action if the talks break own - which, of course, is exactly what is needed.
For messages of support and donations, contact the UNISON Office, 70 Manchester Rd, Chorlton, Manchester M21 9UN. Campaign website: www.stopthecuts.co.nr