Health Secretary Andrew Lansley got a hostile reception at this year’s Royal College of Nursing conference in Harrogate.
A year after its members passed a vote of no confidence in Lansley by 98%, he decided to patch things up by lying about the thousands of jobs cut from hospitals.
When he claimed that the number of clinical staff had risen since the 2010 election, he was heckled and called a liar. Which he is. Since May 2010 the RCN has recorded that at least 61,000 jobs have been lost or will be lost within the NHS.
Under pressure, Lansley admitted that 3,000 nurses posts (so-called ‘frontline’) had been lost but the number of doctors had increased. But more doctors stretching fewer nurses is no achievement.
Jobs being cut within the NHS can only mean a reduced level of patient care and reduced services. Many NHS trusts have had to cut the number of operations they perform, and some have even had to stop providing certain treatments on the NHS.
Dewsbury, Leeds, Lancaster, Mid Staffordshire, Pembury and Queen’s Romford all have warning notices that current staffing levels are unsafe.
Lansley tried to weasel out of this one, saying that responsibility for staffing belonged to the hospital trust boards. In fact, since he’s the minister in charge of imposing devastating budget cuts on these boards, the blame lies squarely with him and his government.
The NHS is not safe in Tory hands. Nurses know it and we have to keep up the pressure to defend universal healthcare.
Lansley told nurses it was their duty to speak out about falling standards. Last year’s no confidence vote in the health minister is probably the loudest statement possible by the RCN.
But saving the NHS from profiteers like Richard Branson’s Virgin Health will take more than no confidence votes and heckling.
Nurses are at the heart of the NHS and we must be at the heart of the fight to save it. This means putting pressure on Unison leaders to call real action to stop the government.
From demonstrations to strikes, we have to use every means possible – or it won’t just be our jobs we lose, but our right to decent health care too.