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Seeing Red – Our NHS is tearing to the seams – The Isle Of Thanet News

Clr Karen Constantine

Our NHS is a valuable asset to all of us. Our NHS staff, every single one of them, are always doing their best, going the ‘extra mile’, no wonder we’ve stood at our door and cheered them on vigorously during the Covid lockdown. Who among us doesn’t feel he deserves a decent pay rise? Yet the Conservative government has failed miserably to put decent pay on the bargaining table. The Conservatives are not taking the labor crisis seriously either.

Our NHS workers have stood up for us, now, with industrial action being the last resort, it is our turn to stand up for them.

I am not surprised that the Royal College of Nursing is voting its 300,000 members on a possible strike for the first time in its 106 year history. I know every member will think carefully about the ballot. And no matter the outcome and eventual outcome, every nurse will do their best to serve the patients. But the sad truth is that the cost-of-living crisis has completely overwhelmed the average income of nurses. If they can’t afford to live on a nurse’s salary, how can we expect to be cared for when we are sick and need their specialist care?

Similarly, the Royal College of Midwives “whose membership includes over 50,000 midwives, student midwives and maternity support workers – urges its members across Britain to vote in favor of strike action” . They also state that “no action would be taken that would put mothers and babies at risk, with safe services being maintained”.

It’s not uncommon to hear that nursing and midwifery staff are so tough they’re forced to use food banks or struggle to pay their workplace parking fees. Safe parking is vital, particularly for those working unsocial shifts, and not forgetting those who regularly work beyond their contractual hours.

The Conservatives have failed the care professions. They took for granted the hundreds of thousands of women (and men, but women predominate) and their professional “calling” and honorable sense of duty. No one ever wants to strike – but when you can’t get the government to listen or come up with a decent and acceptable pay deal, what else can you do?

Patient safety is compromised.

Not only have wages fallen in real terms, but the workforce is plummeting. Nurses are also taking action to protect patient care – as numbers drop alarmingly. Nurses say they are worried about safety on the wards and cannot afford all of their household expenses. Can’t it be fair to spend years in a college education only to end up in a job that just doesn’t allow for a decent standard of living? Or to work in wards with dangerous levels of staff, or even work in a medical practice when the demand for appointments exceeds supply, as is so often the case now, as the number of GPs is also falling.

It is not just nurses and midwives who take industrial action. As we are warned by the NHS England board that demand for GP appointments is at record highs and has exceeded capacity. Dr Farah Jameel, chair of the English General Practitioners Committee of the BMA, British Medical Association, said doctors were ‘desperate’ to provide patients with the care they need. But he said, “We just don’t have enough doctors.” The Tories have failed to stay on track to deliver the additional 6,000 GPs by 2024-25. Without drastic action, the GP crisis will continue to worsen and people will continue to suffer.

Recruitment and retention of GPs over the past decade has been truly abysmal. A quarter of GP positions could be vacant in just 10 years. The relationship between GPs and the government is also in bad shape. So much so that the BMA established a “strike fund” for the first time in its history. They plan to vote in January. We all hope that this industrial action will be avoided.

However, GP practices are currently facing the ‘very real prospect’ of having to temporarily or permanently close this winter due to increased workloads and staffing issues, GP leaders have warned.

“There is currently a shortage of around 4,200 full-time equivalent (FTE) GPs, which is expected to reach around 8,900 FTE GPs in 2030/31, compared to the number needed to meet growing care needs. This means that without changes to current workforce trends and policies, nearly 1 in 4 of the 37,800 GP positions needed to provide pre-pandemic standards of care would be vacant. However, if an increasing number of GPs leave the profession due to burnout and new roles are not successfully integrated into multidisciplinary GP teams, the projected shortfall could reach 18,900 FTE GPs, or around half of vacancies in 2030/31. .”

The situation in Kent.

We need more GPs and surgeries across Kent. Patient demand is there, but appointments in all areas are often difficult to obtain. So four more surgeries in Kent (not Thanet) are welcome, but fall far short of meeting the real needs of Kent residents. The only way to improve this situation is to train many more GPs (and other NHS staff) as quickly as possible. It’s really the only way to create more appointments. More appointments mean patients are both seen and referred to specialists quickly. This prevents the conditions from worsening. Seeing a GP is often essential for an accurate diagnosis.

No wonder so many health unions covering millions of NHS workers are challenging the government, ‘It’s now up to the government to avoid strikes in the NHS by fixing wages,’ UNISON say as they are preparing to vote more than 400,000 members working in the NHS.

Health care affects us all.

From prenatal to death, we all depend on a good primary health care service, and we are absolutely right to believe that we should be able to depend on it. It has been the foundation of our society for as long as most of us can remember. It is the gateway to almost all other treatments. Vitally important if you have a more serious condition that requires investigation and treatment.

The NHS in general, including general practice, has been significantly run down. The number of general practitioners per inhabitant is falling. Many GPs who enter the profession do so knowing that they can only cope with this high-pressure and stressful role on a part-time basis, and as many more women are GPs, to better combine responsibilities of care.

Closer to home, the situation at QEQM is extremely worrying.

Difficulties in getting GP and dental appointments aside, the difficulties I’ve highlighted here may seem abstract – but here’s what’s happening closer to home at QEQM. And please keep in mind that we are not yet at the “winter pressure” stage. So Covid, flu and other factors could quickly make things much worse than they are right now.

Currently at QEQM there are 94 vacancies. This means that we are missing 94 people in our services, in our emergencies and in the whole hospital. I hear that one of the reasons for the staff shortage is that Brighton Hospital is fortunate to be able to offer three to four times the current rate of pay. How on earth can QEQM compete with that? Especially during this cost of living crisis? Where are our local Conservative MPs? Why don’t they push for more funding for the local hospital to solve this exact problem?

This in practice means that patients are not being discharged quickly enough and that’s not just bad for them, it’s also bad for the NHS.

I hear of services being covered by only one qualified staff member and one unqualified member, and the beds awaiting discharge range from 150 patients waiting to 30 currently. These patients find themselves crammed into spaces near emergency exits and nursing stations, but more importantly, they are sometimes left without access to suction, oxygen, and emergency call bells. This increases the risk of an emergency! It can’t be true?

I hear QEQM is so aware of patient waiting time that they put inflatable air mattresses on the carts to prevent patients from becoming uncomfortable.

Other hospitals in east Kent are also struggling. I believe the William Harvey is often on ‘divert’ as it is often rated OPEL 4 – which means it is not safe to receive more patients. And that they have reduced the number of employees in theaters from 4 to 3, which means there is one less qualified person present.

What a mess. I will seek answers from both HOSC, the Kent-wide Health Oversight and Review Board, and our local hospital bosses!

We are told the backlog is due to Covid – no way!

Even before Covid-19, demand for NHS healthcare far exceeded supply: there were 4.4 million people on waiting lists in England at the start of 2020. But the pandemic has made matters worse : around 2.4 million NHS operations were canceled in England and Wales in 2021. GP appointments were severely restricted. There are now 6.6 million people – more than a tenth of the population – awaiting treatment. About 332,000 have been waiting for more than a year, 13 times the comparable number in May 2020.

Of course, it suits the conservatives to say that the current crisis is due to covid. But that’s just not the case.

When the next general election comes, remember that the Conservative government has not taken care of our NHS enough to take care of us. Support all our NHS staff.

John Smith

The author John Smith