The Socialist 5 June 2019 |
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Reverse the GP cuts
Marching to save the NHS, photo Mary Finch (Click to enlarge)
7,000 GP vacancies are expected in the UK by 2024. Chronic underfunding is causing doctors to resign, without prospects of replacing them.
138 GP surgeries closed in 2018 - the most in UK history.
Many practises are pooling their resources and merging to avoid closure. Vulnerable patients are travelling further to see staff who are unfamiliar with them and their health needs.
500,000 people have already been affected by GP closures. If there isn't a concerted fightback, the Tories and their big-business associates will use austerity to continue opportunistic, back-door NHS privatisation.
Rather than resolving the NHS crisis, services are subjected to audits and put out for tender. This enables private companies - such as Virgin Care, Specsavers and Nuffield - to profit from public NHS money.
A private company recently took over the cleaning contract for York hospital. The company made 'savings' by reducing pay and increasing staff workload.
One worker said: "They moved my three-hour contract from 6.30pm-9.30pm to 5pm-8pm. Not only does this mean I am expected to clean rooms while they're still in use by clinicians and patients. But it means I get paid less for my shift, as I was previously compensated with unsocial pay rate for the 1.5 hours that I worked past 8pm."
The plans of big business also steer healthcare into a two-tier system. The strain on GP surgeries mean patient 'choice' is waiting two weeks or more for an appointment, going to A&E or paying to be seen privately.
My own GP surgery runs a first-come-first-served same-day appointment system. Sick people trek to their GP for 7am to chance getting an appointment.
Many surgeries now use online booking systems to manage appointments and repeat prescriptions. But without proper continuation of phone and face-to-face resources, many without internet access - predominately older and poorer people - are affected.
Many GPs see twice the number of patients safely recommended, work eleven-hour days, and increasingly make mistakes due to fatigue. Allied services - nurses, midwives, physios, occupational therapists and so on - are being asked to work outside their skill scope due to stretched services.
This is dangerous for patients. And workers are not covered by registration insurance if an accident happened while performing outside of training scope.
These strains are effecting recruitment and retention. As a healthcare worker it is truly heart breaking to feel unable to provide quality care to patients.
Drop in the ocean
The small funding increase for the GP resilience programme from £8 million to £13 million is a drop in the ocean compared to what is needed after a decade of Tory austerity.
Like education, housing and environmental change, the problems in the NHS go deeper than a quick-fix budget top-up. What is needed is massive investment, an end to privatisation, and a fully nationalised NHS that is democratically controlled by staff and patients.
And we need a general election now to force out privatising careerist politicians.