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From The Socialist newspaper, 15 January 2020

A&Es in meltdown

Build for strikes to save NHS

NHS workers protest against privatisation of the blood service, photo Paul Mattsson, photo Paul Mattsson

NHS workers protest against privatisation of the blood service, photo Paul Mattsson, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

Jon Dale, secretary, Unite union Nottinghamshire Health Branch

It's an emergency! In November, none of England's 118 major accident and emergency departments met their targets - the first time ever. In December the situation got worse.

Most hospitals in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland also failed to treat and admit, transfer or discharge 95% of patients within four hours. The sickest patients needing admission are most likely to wait for beds to become free while lying on trolleys in corridors or waiting areas.

This leads to queueing ambulances outside. Over 80,000 ambulance patients - one in six - waited at least 30 minutes before they could be handed to A&E staff during this winter's first five weeks. Ambulance response times after 999 calls are up as a result.

So far, winter has been mild. Icy conditions immediately send casualty numbers soaring as people fall, have road accidents or arrive in hypothermia.

The never-ending list of statistics describes an NHS buckling under the strain. Every figure represents people suffering.

Stress and sickness

Knowing this human cost puts massive strain on health workers. Decisions must be made fast. There's no time to comfort and reassure sick patients and their families when the queue stretches out the door.

Staff stagger home exhausted and it's hard to switch off. 'Was I right to do this? Should I have checked that?' No wonder sickness levels are up. 200,000 nurses have left the profession since 2011. Johnson claims he's going to persuade some to stay and others to return!

Nurses and ambulance staff in Northern Ireland are showing how to fight low pay and unsafe staffing levels. 20,000 were on strike on 8 January, including 9,500 Royal College of Nursing members - the RCN's first strike in 103 years.

Huge public support for their action helped drive politicians from sectarian and pro-big business parties to re-form a power-sharing government after three years' stalemate.

Unions should organise now to defend all health workers and the services they provide. An emergency conference calling an emergency national demonstration, building for national strike action, is needed. These should be the first steps to defeat Tory privatisation plans and reverse years of austerity.

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Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
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In The Socialist 15 January 2020:

What we think

Labour Party leadership contest: Fight for a mass anti-austerity, workers' party with a socialist programme

Labour leadership race: Reverse Unison's undemocratic nomination of Blairite Starmer


Low Pay, Long Hours. Bosses rip us off. Organise the fightback now!

Build for strikes to save NHS

No free ride for the airline bosses - nationalise Flybe now!

Them & Us

Workplace news

Hackney school bus workers win pay increase following strikes

PCS: Time to rebuild the left

Northern Ireland: Thousands of nurses continue to strike for better pay

Westex Carpet strike reaches two month mark

London bus drivers ballot to strike

Union lawyer arrested on security guards' picket line


We need socialists in London's City Hall

Stop gentrification in Newham: "We are here, you have consulted us and we're not going anywhere!"

Massive Scottish independence demo marks new stage in struggle

Young people who voted for Corbyn's manifesto will now ask... How can we win those ideas?

London: Protesters return to oppose Middle East war

Cladding scandal: Government steps up defence of landlords

Nottingham: Youth protest against Barclays £64 million fossil-fuel investments

Socialist Party national committee meeting

International socialist news and analysis

Renewed protests shake Iranian leaders

France: Strike wave over pensions - Macron government in retreat

Readers' opinion

Sustainable food production and the need for socialism

TV Review: Apocalypse Cow

The Socialist Inbox


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