Report from Cheltenham`s “March for the NHS” on Saturday March 12th

Aneurin Bevan, Labour Health Minister and founder of the NHS clearly anticipated ongoing threats to the National Health Service when he said in 1948;

“It will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it”.

Saturday March 12th in Cheltenham saw folk with that very faith join together for the ”MARCH FOR THE NHS”.
Earlier in the week Junior Doctors had staged a 48-hour strike in response to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt`s imposition of a contract described as by the Junior Doctors as “Not safe and not fair”. Two Junior Doctors spoke at the rallies which took place at the beginning and end of the march, they warned of the threat to future doctor recruitment and retention. Other speakers included a trainee nurse warning of the threat to future nurse recruitment from the withdrawal of nurses` bursaries next year.

Photo 2 of Cheltenham - March for the NHS. Support Junior Doctors!- in Sandford Park

A shortage of A&E Consultants was the reason given for the downgrade of Cheltenham General Hospital`s nightime A&E in 2013 to Minor Injuries only. No undertaking has been given that a full A&E service will be restored, nor is this even given as an aspiration, while elsewhere in the UK many A&Es have been closed.
BMA rep Dr Charlotte Walker warned that “eventually if you completely destroy the morale of a group of staff – we are dedicated to our patients – but eventually people are going to walk, and people are going to walk especially from A&E because the rota is much worse, from Obstectrics & Gynaecology because the rotas are much worse, and you can`t blame them, they are humans they have a life. They are being pushed to their absolute limits already and the government do not realise that if they lose people from those specialties the hospitals are going to be less safe – you are not going to be able to get enough doctors that you need.”
Photo 4 of Cheltenham - March for the NHS. Support Junior Doctors!- in The StrandAnother speaker (not a Junior Doctor) explained how little Junior Doctors are paid:
“We all know this dispute is not about Saturday working premiums. Junior doctors aren’t in it for the money…..if they were they wouldn’t have accumulated £30k+ in student loans and work for less money than a shelf stacker in Aldi. Lets look at what a junior doctor will earn from April this year……it’s £23k that’s £7.89 per hour for a 56 hour week ……not that they get away with working a 56 hr week – they are dedicated people who understand they hold peoples lives in their hands and don’t clock off until they have finished all the jobs they have started.
So lets look at the figures Aldi pay £8.40 ph while Lidl and Morrisons pay £8.20 ph so a junior doctor could work at Aldi for 52hrs pw earn the same money and not have to pay the bma £420 for insurance etc.
Our junior doctors are striking for our safety – yes – they are striking for us. They realise the new contract Jeremy Hunt wants to impose will lead to tired stressed doctors and that will make our NHS unsafe.
It was reported on Thursday this week that the targets for A&E in January failed with only 89% of patients being seen within the 4 hr window.
We are now at the point where the NHS is creaking and is only being held together by the goodwill of it’s overworked tired employees.
This is scary because we are creating the perfect storm for privatisation. Don’t be fooled when you see company xyz working in partnership with the NHS – what that means is that area has been privatised and more is to come but don’t just believe me ……..find out for yourselves.
How many of you have heard of the ‘transatlantic trade and investment partnership’?
Well the TTIP will allow American healthcare providers to tender for our services on a level playing field. That means the likes of Blue Cross, Cigna and Kaiser Permanente will be allowed to run our services. These are the companies that look for ways not to provide healthcare and if you don’t believe me I urge you to watch Sicko by Michael Moore – I was horrified at what I learnt and it had to be true because these companies are litigious with a capital L.
So many of our services within the NHS is are being sold off under the guise of efficiency and cost saving that our glorious NHS is no longer a Service but a plc with NHS being a brand.
Now many of you may not think this could happen here in Cheltenham but how many of you know that as of April 2013 49% of the beds in our foundation trust can be used for private patients?? Scary isn’t it!
And what about our nurses – they’re taking away the bursaries and going over to the Phillipines to recruit nurses – I saw on BBC News that Trusts say they can recoup the recruitment costs of these nurses within 3 months of full time employment so why give burseries when the Phillipines train 60,000 more nurses per year than they need.”
Photo 3 of Cheltenham - March for the NHS. Support Junior Doctors! in Montpellier GardensIn addition to the speakers, statements from NHS workers unable to attend were read out. The following is from a paramedic in Gloucestershire:
UNISON SWAAHB (South Western Ambulance & Allied Health Branch)
“My name is Shane Clark and I am a UNISON steward in the ambulance service. I’m sorry we can’t be with you in person today but the weekend is our busiest time and we must put our patients first.
UNISON members from South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, the organisation that provides 999 and out of hours doctor services to Gloucestershire has massive concerns about the state of emergency service provision in the NHS. This is not limited to Gloucestershire because this is a national issue and one that our UNISON colleagues within other neighbouring NHS organisations continue to highlight on an almost daily basis.
So what is the root issue?
Put simply it’s a lack of government funding over a long period of time. This long term neglect has all of a sudden caught up with us. This is combined with increased patient expectations, a lack of education and total confusion about un scheduled NHS care caused by the fragmentation and privatisation of NHS services.
My example is typical. I work in Gloucestershire and our acute Hospital Trust, the organisation that runs the hospitals, reaches breaking point almost on a daily basis whereas only a few years ago it was only on a Friday and Saturday that we saw unprecedented demand. A couple of predictably frenetic days is reasonably easy to plan for and cope with.
However these days now just blend in with the other 5 days of the week!
And it is nigh on impossible to plan emergency resources based purely on
historical demand because the 999 call rate is constantly increasing and fluctuating. Deep down we all know we need more patient carrying ambulances but to train and employ staff, and purchase and equip the vehicles, is incredibly expensive – you don’t get much change from half a million quid if you want just one fully staffed ambulance run 24/7 for a year.
I personally feel it has started to become a blame game with ‘everyone
blaming everyone else’ but deep down we all know it’s the Government
continuing to starve the NHS and Grass Root services of much needed
GP Surgery patients continue to have long waits to be seen and this
often has a knock on effect to the ambulance service with the anxious
mum inevitably calling 111 or 999 for her unwell child.
At the same time grass roots care has been stripped to the bone with
Social Services and District Nursing services keeping heads above the
water at best. Once again when these services are under pressure or
unavailable then the cal for help defaults back to the 999 ambulance
UNISON are continuing to battle this out at a national level and locally
where similar concerns are always on the agenda.
Our members in UNISON also stand in solidarity alongside the Junior
Doctors and groups such as 38Degrees, Bristol Anti-Cuts Alliance and
Stroud Against Cuts to name but a few – all with the same aim of
highlighting these concerns. Together we are stronger and it’s great to
know so many people care about the great work done by those in the NHS.
We will continue to fight for OUR NHS!”



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