Join the march and rally in Chorley on Saturday 11 June.
This month’s health recruitment fortnight has been hugely successful and has boosted our membership and profile across the region’s hospitals. I want to pay tribute to branches and staff for all their hard work and enthusiasm in delivering such an excellent fortnight.
There was a great reaction from existing and new members to UNISON’s campaign work in health. We believe in a properly planned and resourced NHS, providing comprehensive services on the basis of need. But everywhere we turn there are signs that under the stewardship of the present Government and the hapless Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt, the future of the NHS is under threat. For example:
Bursaries. The Government plans to scrap NHS student bursaries in 2017. Bursaries are vital in giving people from all walks of life the chance to train to become one of the 500,000+ nurses, midwives, and allied health professionals required to keep our NHS running. Activists from the North West were amongst those who attended the lobby of Parliament this week to highlight the unfairness and short-sightedness of this cut. (link to campaign page)
Unsocial Hours. The Government’s attempt to impose a ‘contract’ on junior doctors was a new low in industrial relations in the health service. The Government appears intent on extending ‘normal working time’ for NHS staff. UNISON will resist any such move as it is only right that time worked during unsocial hours is paid at rate that compensates staff for the extra strain it puts on them. Years of pay freezes and caps also mean that unsocial hours payments have become a source of income that staff rely on – so an attack on unsocial hours pay threatens the ability of the NHS to retain staff. (link to campaign page)
Privatisation. The BBC has reported this week about the increase in spending on private ambulances. This reflects a failing of the Government to properly invest in the recruitment and retention of ambulance staff. Spending on private ambulances is a terrible waste of money. We need investment in a comprehensive and properly-resourced NHS ambulance service.
A very stark example of how a lack of planning and resources is undermining our needs-based NHS is the closure of the Accident & Emergency Department at Chorley Hospital. This closure did not follow a careful consideration of the needs of the local population. The closure was caused by the lack of sufficient doctors to run the A&E safely.
The closure is a terrible worry for the local community and it also has put increased pressure on other A&Es in the region. But I believe that the closure of Chorley’s A&E is a concern to everybody who believes in the NHS. The Government needs to provide the funding and the planning to enable the NHS to function. We cannot stand by while a community is denied access to a health service that it needs because of a lack of resources. That’s why I’ll be attending the march and rally in Chorley on Saturday 11 June and I would encourage branches and members from across the region to take part. (link to more info on the march)