Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Cuts can kill! And HM Government can seriously damage your health

FIGHT FOR NHS has been constant battle. St.George's, Tooting workers marching back in Thatcher's day, Now Con-Dem government could be out to finish NHS off. UNKNOWN BUILDING WORKER honoured at Tower Hill. IT was good to see delegates at the Royal College of Nursing annual conference voting almost unanimously for no confidence in Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, just as it was good to hear that the British Medical Association had decided to reject the government's plans to wreck - sorry 'reform' yet again - the NHS. Having kept the public in the dark about their plans until after the general election, the Tories had no trouble buying the Lib Dems' consciences with cabinet posts, but have run up against the health professionals whom they pretended to want empowering, but who don't want turning into business people, and know the game is to bring yet more openings for private business and keep public accountability at bay. Blocking the government's reform plans is only part of the battle for health provision however. A report in Tuesday's Guardian says: 'Hospital casualty departments are struggling to cope with growing demand for emergency care because they have too few staff and not enough beds, Britain's top accident and emergency doctor has warned.As new figures pointed to a steep rise in A&E waiting times and 890 ambulance jobs were lost, John Heyworth, president of the College of Emergency Medicine, joined a growing chorus of doctors warning that the NHS funding pressures are already hitting frontline services.

"The emergency care system is struggling to cope at the moment," he said. "Many departments spend their time firefighting because of the number of patients coming in, the limited number of emergency department staff and limited availability of beds."

David Cameron and the health secretary, Andrew Lansley, have insisted that the NHS will not be affected by the deep cuts to public spending elsewhere and that frontline services will be protected during their shakeup of the health service.But medical organisations, health charities and patients' groups are increasingly sceptical that the pledge can be kept as health spending fails to keep pace with the rising cost of treating Britain's ageing population.

"The line that the NHS is being protected from cuts – even to frontline services – is looking increasingly absurd", Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the British Medical Association's ruling council, told the Guardian on Tuesday. "The financial pressures are really starting to bite and these are yet more examples of vital services that are showing signs of the strain and that will be stretched to the limit."'

So much for talk of "walk in" centres for treatment at every hospital. In fact even before the Tories got in many hospital trusts seemed to have begun shedding A&E departments, offering them to any taker, or proposing to concentrate services at one site - which sounds fine maybe to an administrator under pressure to find savings , not so to staff facing either redundancy or extra work, and least of all to patients (or "customers", as hospital staff were told to start calling us when the non-medical management consultants moved into hospitals last time the Tories were in).

Some time ago I blogged about the woman who lost a finger working at a firm in Park Royal, NW London, and was left at the nearby Central Middlesex Hospital though, as it happened, she needed to be taken to another hospital if there was to be a chance of sewing her fingertip back on.

I was more fortunate myself when taken ill at the end of a working day some years back, I reached home, and as my symptoms continued, called NHS Direct, who advised me to take a cab to the nearest hospital. As it happened I was living a short walk away from the Central Middlesex, so I skipped waiting for a cab and walked round to the busy A&E there, where after a wait I was seen, and taken in under observation. As you see, I survived to tell the tale.

The reason I recall these cases is, they were both work-related, and because I hear that, busy as it is, the A&E at Park Royal hospital (as we old-timers still call the Central Middlesex) may be under threat once again, as it was a couple of years back, with services transferred perhaps to Northwick Park. I've no idea how I'd have got to Northwick Park that night. I've not been able to confirm this rumour so far, But I see that over the other side of London the A&E at King George Hospital, Ilford, also busy, is facing closure, and even Ian Duncan Smith felt compelled to present a petition to his boss David Cameron on behalf of his constituents. (If IDS had his way I'd still be working so petition or not, I'd be happy to see him have an accident).

My little ailment turned out not to be as serious as the symptoms led one to fear. In other cases, people can take longer being seen at a hospital and the opposite can prove true. Having to search around to find an A&E still functioning can't be good for your health.

April 28 is Workers Memorial Day, and I heard the other day from some Facebook friends in the North East that their local anti-cuts campaign group was undecided whether to join the trade union sponsored march for the occasion and whether they would be welcomed. I can't see why not. As I pointed out the Tories have said they will ease the "burden" of Health and Safety rules on business, and HSE has said it will stop already inadequate workplace inspections. Taken with moves against fire service jobs and the closure of busy A&E departments, I think we can say the firefighters on the March 26 demonstration were not exagerating with their banner that warned us "Cuts can kill".

As it happens the very active Sunderland Against the Cuts campaigners, who were also in London for March 26, have decided to concentrate on taking their banner on May Day. The cuts issue will also feature very much on the May Day march here in London I think. But the fight against the cuts remains particularly relevant to Workers Memorial Day and vice versa, when we remind ourselves that our lives and health and those of our workmates and friends are worth fighting for, and as the slogan goes, "Remember the Dead, Organise and Fight for the Living!"

Some events coming up in London in connection with Workers Memorial Day:

WALTHAM FOREST: A very moving film made by the families of people killed at work is to be shown at Waltham Forest Sports and Social Club, Town Hall, Forest Rd E17 at 5.30pm on 19th April. They want it shown around the country. Calling all for action in defence of workplace health and safety provisions and to promote Workers Memorial Day, April 28th, they have formed a campaign group called Families Against Corporate Killers - FACK - because of their shoddy treatment by employers and the state and to try and prevent similar happening to other families in the light of the government's plans. There will also be an event at the Town Hall on the 28th at 12.30pm to mark Workers Memorial Day, to remember the two two workers killed in Waltham Forest in the previous year and to call for us all to fight for the living! Andrezej Rokita, 55, from Poland, was killed by falling materials while working at M & M Contracting Ltd., Midland Rd. E10. Raymond Holmes, 60, a GMB member from Essex, died when he was struck by a reversing vehicle, two days after Workers Memorial Day last year at Coppermill Water Treatment Works. For more information about Families Against Corporate Killers go to:

For more information about Workers Memorial Day go to:

(thanks to Waltham Forest Trades Union Council and Waltham Forest Unison)

ON THURSDAY APRIL 28: Tower Hill 9.30 am - gather at the statue of the Unknown Building Worker on Tower Hill, for meeting and minutes silence to honour all those killed from work activities. 10.30 am March to the office of the Mayor of London on the other side of Tower Bridge. Westminster 12 noon-2pm - Protest outside the Department of Work and Pensions, Tothill Street, SW1H 9DA, to oppose the cuts and defend workplace health and safety. (thanks to Construction Safety Campaign).

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