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Volume 50 Number 6, February 22, 2020 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Building the Resistance and Seizing the Initiative

NHS Winter Crisis Day of Action

Banner-drop across Westminster Bridge, February 15 2020

A very successful NHS Winter Crisis National Day of Action took place on February 15, when members of the new group NHS Staff Voices, part of the Keep Our NHS Public, carried out a banner-drop from the side of Westminster Bridge, drawing public attention to the worst winter crisis on record.

The banner read: "NHS staff say don't blame our patients! Winter crisis is the government's crisis; 5449 died waiting on hospital trolleys". The banner references a recent study conducted by emergency medicine doctors Dr Chris Moulton and Dr Cliff Mann in December which found that there had been 5,449 avoidable patient deaths as a direct result of waiting for too long on trolleys for medical attention. This has struck a chord with hard-working and increasingly burnt out NHS staff who are demanding proper funding, increased staffing and an end once and for all to this seemingly perpetual crisis.

Dr Tony O'Sullivan, retired consultant paediatrician and Co-Chair of Keep Our NHS Public, who participated in the banner-drop, said: "Now more than ever it is crucially important that NHS staff make their voices heard. There exists so little opportunity for us to voice our feelings around the subject, and this was an act of solidarity with all who work in the NHS at every level, to literally tell the public we have had enough of the way this government treats both NHS staff and its patients"[see note below on the context of the actions]. He further pointed out: "Government failure to support the NHS and social care system means our dedicated NHS staff are working in unsafe conditions. Our Day of Action is a thank you to NHS staff and a demand to the government: restore our NHS to a fully funded, publicly provided, safe service with the sole priority to care for all."

NHS winter crisis action at Ealing

But this was just the start of the day that saw hundreds of activists around the country engaged in their own actions to highlight the extent of the crisis.

One target was Leeds General Infirmary in West Yorkshire, where a child was photographed lying on the floor of the hospital last year because there was not even a trolley for him to lie on, let alone a bed. Tory underfunding and privatisation of the NHS has left the service short of 106,000 staff, including 44,000 nurses, official data revealed in December. Organised by Leeds KONP, around 30 people with placards, banners and musical instruments gathered near the Jubilee Wing at noon to support the NHS and its staff. They called attention to the "winter crisis and ongoing serious under-funding issues" facing health services. They demanded an "end to the crisis, adequate funding for the NHS, an end to pay freezes and an end to privatisation".

On Merseyside on February 13, over 30 campaigners including members of KONP, Save Liverpool Women's Hospital, and Merseyside Pensioners Association attended a lunchtime demo outside the Royal Liverpool Hospital. Hundreds of KONP "Winter Crisis" leaflets and HCT newspapers were distributed to patients and staff, with good response. They chanted "Whose NHS? - Our NHS... Whose Crisis? - Their Crisis... We Won't Pay for Their Crisis" and "Trolley Waits around the Nation, are not caused by Immigration. Bull***t, Come Off it, The Enemy is Profit" Among the speakers taking a stand against the privatisation of services including by foreign corporations were Mary Whitby, Alex Scott-Samuel, Andrea Franks, Lesley Mahmood, plus an appeal for the impending UCU strike from Martin Ralph.

NHS winter crisis action at Leeds

Campaigners from the Greater Manchester Keep Our NHS Public group held a protest outside Manchester Royal Infirmary on Oxford Road. Greater Manchester spokesperson Hugh Caffrey said that A&E waiting times figures show an endless crisis of overstretched staff and insufficient beds. This is a hidden crisis of under-staffing in our National Health Service and we demand this is resolved by ending privatisation and investing in beds and staff, he said. There were other reports of campaigners from their rallies, marches, street stalls and more in every part of the country. There were also stalls and campaign actions in Newcastle, South Tyneside and Sunderland as well as other parts of the north-east of England.

This was a very successful day despite Storm Dennis and bad weather conditions in most places in the country. There are still more actions coming this Saturday so see:

Note on the context of the actions:

The latest monthly NHS situation reports predictably tell of an NHS under unprecedented strain. The number of urgent operations cancelled in December was 332. Added to this there were 100,578 four-hour delays from decision to admit to admission this month, which compares to 83,554 in the same month last year. This is the highest level of four-hour delays from decision to admit to admission since records began. Of these, 2,846 were delayed over twelve hours which compares to 627 in the same month last year.

In November, doctors union the British Medical Association (BMA) analysed current performance data and trends, predicting that the NHS was on track to endure its worst ever winter as pressure on services intensified. More beds are urgently needed, however, even if new promised hospitals eventually materialise, these will not solve the bed crisis, as the NHS has now lost around 17,000 since 2010 at most of its hospitals. The government's promises will not alleviate the immense pressures facing the NHS this season, the best we can hope for is that these conditions are not replicated next winter. However, with a funding commitment that fails to account for inflation and is well below what experts agree is required, these statistics look set to be repeated throughout the coming year.

(Keep Our NHS Public website reports)


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