Kicking off a very succesful Winter Crisis National Day of Action on Saturday, members of the new, Keep Our NHS Public group, NHS Staff Voices 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 yesterday’s banner drop says
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. Both patients and staff are tragically dying unnecessarily thanks to the environment the Conservatives have created. The blame for this manufactured crisis lies squarely at the governments door and they must act immediately to save lives.
But this was just the start of the day that saw hundreds of activists around the country engaged in their own stunts 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.
Click here to watch the short video from Westminster Bridge kicking off the Winter Crisis Day of Action
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. A lack of recovery from the summer, staff shortages exacerbated by pension tax legislation forcing senior doctors to work fewer shifts, and a focus on Brexit planning rather than winter preparedness has now combined to cause the worst winter crisis on record.
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. 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.
Dr John Puntis, Consultant Paediatrician and Co-Chair of Keep Our NHS Public said:
The latest performance figures for the NHS in England once again show the devastating effects of 10 years of Conservative austerity, with record target fails for A&E waits and cancer services, and a huge and expanding waiting list for elective surgery. Rather than boasting about its under-investment, the government should come clean that it’s so called “plans” amount to no more than treading water. The NHS and the public deserve much better – where are the promised Brexit dividend, the thousands more nurses and doctors, the new hospitals and the investments in community care? It's time to take back control of our NHS from Johnson, Hancock and the private companies like Virgin that have been actively undermining it for all these years.
Tom Gardiner, junior doctor and member of Keep Our NHS Public said:
Sadly these latest performance figures come as no surprise to anyone who works on the NHS frontline. Whether it’s the trollies lined up in A&E, patients waiting longer and longer for an operation, or elderly people unable to get the care they need, our health service is falling apart at the seams. These are the consequences of a government that holds the public in contempt. Crisis has become the new normal for our health service but don’t be mistaken, the last 2 months have been some of the worst in the history of the NHS.
The nationwide action took place from Liverpool to Brighton and many places in-between.
Alia Butt, an NHS Psychotherapist who helped organise the action planned ifor Westminster Bridge said:
The NHS is an essential foundation of a compassionate, cohesive, and healthy society. The affects of 10 years of austerity has gutted the NHS and its ability to provide excellent healthcare, to treat people properly, both staff and patients alike. On Saturday, we stood together with many other NHS activists across the country against the further destruction of the NHS from underfunding and privatisation. We are forming a new campaigning group called ‘NHS staff voices’, part of the KONP family, hoping to make our demands for an adequately funded NHS heard, particularly by the government. We wish to express solidarity with all NHS staff everywhere.
Dr Tony O’Sullivan, retired Consultant Paediatrician and Co-Chair of Keep Our NHS Public said:
Winter Crisis in the NHS’ is now an annual cry, in danger of failing to move the public. But every statistic is a real person - an actual family affected - and thousands of avoidable deaths result from long waits on trolleys before a bed is available. Millions are waiting for treatment in dangerous circumstances. 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 Thankyou 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.
Over the weekend reports came in from campaigners from their rallies, marches, street stalls and more.
In Merseyside they told us,
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 today. Hundreds of KONP “Winter Crisis” leaflets and HCT newspapers were distributed to patients and staff, with good response.
We 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”.
Speakers included Mary Whitby, Alex Scott-Samuel, Andrea Franks, Lesley Mahmood, plus an appeal for the impending UCU strike from Martin Ralph.
KONP's Greg Dropkin told the crowd,
KONP has called demonstrations around the country this week to highlight the worst ever NHS crisis. The only reason the NHS has not collapsed is that staff are working beyond their limit to keep it afloat. There’s a demo in Manchester today, and at Arrowe Park on Saturday organised by Defend Our NHS in the Wirral, when most of the other national rallies will be held.
Campaigners from the Greater Manchester Keep Our NHS Public group held a peaceful protest outside Manchester Royal Infirmary on Oxford Road today as part of a coordinated series of protests taking place around England organised by Keep Our NHS Public.
Greater Manchester spokesperson Hugh Caffrey said:
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.
The ongoing crisis in the NHS continues to worsen due to chronic underfunding leading to cuts, closures and huge staff shortages. This year’s Winter Crisis is the worst yet on record and set to continue. This government has no serious answers, its funding pledges have been proven to be as much spin as substance and the looming threat of a US Trade Deal could open up our NHS to further damaging private sector deals. This is the start of huge co-ordinated and sustained campaigning to secure the necessary funding to reverse the cuts to NHS services and to hold off any more Private Sector deals.
Ealing Save Our NHS campaigners held a protest today to highlight the worst winter crisis recorded so far. They gathered on the steps of Perceval House, home of the Ealing Clinical Commissioning Group, which holds the purse strings for the NHS in Ealing.
Eve Turner, Secretary of Ealing Save Our NHS said:
Trolleys in corridors are now a regular feature in local hospitals – so much so that nurses and even doctors have had to be designated to staff corridors. The NHS is starting to crumble before our eyes - literally in the case of some maintenance issues, for example Hillingdon Hospital had to close children’s wards which became unsafe because there was no money for maintenance. The Trusts that run our hospitals have been starved of funding for years and now they are just not coping in some areas.
Elsewhere, members of Coventry Keep Our NHS Public, convened outside the Coventry and Rugby Clinical Commissioning Group offices on Saturday - part of the NHS: Winter Crisis Day of Action- drawing attention to the devastating crisis affecting our NHS. Later we were in Coventry City centre leafleting about the cause of the crisis, handing out the new national KONP leaflet and copies of the new Health Campaigns Together newspaper.
The Yorkshire Evening Post covered the Leeds action and said,
Around 30 people with placards, banners and musical instruments gathered near the Jubilee Wing at noon to support the NHS and its staff.
Organised by Leeds KONP (Keep our NHS Public), campaigners wanted to call attention to the "winter crisis and ongoing serious under-funding issues" facing health services in our city. It was part of a national day of action by KONP at hospitals across the country. The organisation has demanded an "end to the crisis, adequate funding for the NHS, an end to pay freezes and an end to privatisation.
All told a very succesful day despite Storm Dennis and bad weather conditions in most places in the country. There are still more actions coming next Saturday too, check out our events page here for more info.