National Health Service
Updated: Aug 22, 2020
Over the past four months we have seen an outpouring of support for the NHS, with placards in windows across the country, various businesses offering discounts for healthcare workers, and, of course, Clap For Carers. However, at times this deluge of support has not translated into a tangible impact on the lives of our key workers. At The Crisis Project, we chose to support our key workers with individual, bespoke letters so that each key worker can feel recognised for their own work.
However, as we open our eyes to other causes we can promote to our audience, we acknowledge that this is not enough. It is not enough to clap, to thank, or even to write letters. Now more than ever, we need to vote, sign petitions and lobby our local MPs.
In the past decade, due to a combination of 1% rises and pay freezes, the average salary of a nurse has fallen 8% in real terms, according to the Royal College of Nurses. 1 in 10 nurses, faced with overcrowded hospitals, a poor work life balanced and increased stress during shifts, have been leaving every year. Most recent figures suggest that this has jumped to over 1 in 3 nurses considering leaving their role, with poor pay being cited as the primary factor, with the high stress of the role also a major concern. In France, a recent pay package of €8bn will trickle down to an average pay increase of €183 per month for healthcare workers - we must demand the same for our NHS.
Brexit was also a large cause of concern for healthcare workers - with over 62,000 having immigrated from EU countries to provide their service. Since the Brexit vote, over 5000 of them have left due to the uncertainty surrounding leaving the EU. This has hit the already understaffed NHS hard, and staff are working hundreds of thousands of unpaid hours weekly to compensate. Healthcare workers are regularly unable to take annual leave because there is simply no one to cover it. Agency workers, who are called in to fill a temporary staff shortage, often are unable to provide the continuity of care that the most vulnerable patients need. It is evident that understaffing is dangerous, not only for patients but also for the mental health of key workers.
When the NHS was created in 1948 as one of the pillars of the welfare state, it was designed to meet the needs of everyone, free at the point of delivery and based upon clinical need rather than means to pay. The Health and Social Care Act of 2012 triggered a widely criticised reorganisation of the NHS, raising the income that hospitals can raise from private sources from 2% to 49%, leading to a more market based approach. The general idea was that competitive tender from for-profit companies would lead to increased competition, and therefore improve quality of care. In reality this led to a disastrous fragmentation of our health service, with the focus shifting from the patient to the potential profit. If we include GPs and dentists in our remit, many estimate that over a quarter of NHS spending goes to the private sector. The Hinchingbrooke Hospital case demonstrates that privatisation is not the solution - in 2012 the entire hospital was given to a private company, however just three years later the deal collapsed and the hospital was handed back. We cannot sell off parts of the NHS to private companies who will not be around to pick up the pieces if the venture fails.
Healthcare workers form the pillar of our society, and need to be treated as such. The government’s points based immigration system is demeaning, and excludes thousands of NHS workers. The U-turn on free parking for healthcare workers could mean staff paying up to £40 for a twelve hour shift. Over 500 NHS workers have lost their lives during the pandemic, primarily due to the inadequate provision of PPE by the government. The government states that it has distributed over 2.2 billion items of PPE, but this is counting an individual glove as an item of PPE. Furthermore, the majority of these items should ideally have been changed between each shift but were having to be repeatedly reused. The BBC Panorama documentary ‘Has The Government Failed The NHS?’ takes a deep dive into the various decisions and actions leading to this point and is well worth a watch.
We thank you all for your letters of gratitude, and the support and love you have spread over the last four months. Now we call on you to deliver change. We have listed below a list of Government petitions you can sign to ensure that these matters receive the attention they deserve.
Sign a petition to make parking for NHS staff free here
Sign a petition to give NHS staff who are not British citizens automatic citizenship here
Sign a petition to provide healthcare workers with adequate PPE here
Written by Soumya Krishna Kumar for The Crisis Project