By our reporters

Socialist Equality Party members in England campaigning for the South West NHS Fightback have received an encouraging response from health workers.

Energetic efforts have seen more than 5,000 leaflets distributed at hospitals in the South West region of England and other National Health Service (NHS) units. The South West NHS Fightback wordpress page has had over 3,000 hits with more encouraging comments.

The campaign has also been extended nationally, with hospitals in Sheffield, Manchester and Glasgow covered by campaign teams.

At Trafford General Hospital in Manchester, where the NHS was founded, the Accident and Emergency (A&E) unit is faced with closure along with the loss of its Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and the ending of children’s services and acute surgery.

A young Asian nurse explained, “They are making cuts all over.”

A catering worker said, “Someone has to stand up and once a stand is made, it will snowball. The unions are doing nothing and things are still closing down.”

During campaigning in the South West, one nurse outlined how the unions were a waste of time and invited us to her ward to distribute our leaflets. 

One nurse was advised by her union rep to write in to her Labour MP, Dawn Primarolo. She had received a reply which she claimed was “something and nothing.”

A health manager for a small social health enterprise in the South West, Sarah J, has been working with a social health enterprise for nine months. Sarah had worked in the NHS prior to this position for over 18 years and is a member of the trade union Unite.

After explaining to Sarah the conditions sought by the pay cartel, she replied, “How can they do that? That’s really scary because this means no stability for anyone. If people are not receiving job satisfaction they cannot be providing an optimum level of care and the general public are going to suffer big time.”

We asked her what she thought of the working conditions in the NHS:

It’s absolutely horrendous I’ve been in the NHS for over 18 years. I’m not in the NHS now and part of the reason I left was because I saw people dropping like flies and being abused and I just wasn’t going to be part of that any longer. If people are off with stress for a long period of time, they are not allowed to do a graduated return to work. Occupational health recommend that this should happen and it doesn’t.

Nursing was always a job for life, but none of that exists anymore. This is bound to affect patient care. Staff morale is so low, confidence and self esteem is so low because basically there is a blame culture. If anything goes wrong it’s got to be the health visitor or the district nurse or the school nurse’s fault. It has a negative impact.

The big change for me was moving from the city which was financed very well to an outer city area which was chronically underfunded. My duties tripled overnight, from caring for five people per day to 15 people per day. There is a lack of investing in training of leadership. So there are health workers out there that are not trained in the key skills to do the job adequately.”

As reported by Demotix news site this week, Unison Regional Manager Helen Willis said “We believe the [south-west NHS trusts’ pay] cartel’s approach is simply a cost cutting exercise which will affect the quality of the services. The consequences for the region will be disastrous; skilled health workers will be driven out of the region, taking money out of the local economy, and deepening the healthcare postcode lottery.”

But all that has been organised is a demonstration outside the Wonford House Hospital in Exeter to coincide with an executive meeting of the trusts.

Nurses are working 12 hour shifts, some back to back. One nurse told us she hadn’t had a break since she started her shift at 7am. It was 4.30pm when she told us.