Unions have called on the government to get round the negotiating table if they are serious about improving the NHS. Figures released today show waiting times at A&E departments have reached their worst levels for 10 years. Hospitals in five areas …

21 June Fight for NHS LondonUnions have called on the government to get round the negotiating table if they are serious about improving the NHS.

Figures released today show waiting times at A&E departments have reached their worst levels for 10 years. Hospitals in five areas have declared major incidents.

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis, whose NHS members are planning to strike over pay on January 29th, said: “The NHS is now on the brink of disaster. It is outrageous that vulnerable patients are not being seen within the recommended timescale. Waiting longer in A&Es causes a huge amount of pain and distress to patients and their families.

“We warned months ago that the NHS was hugely stretched – those working in A&Es have spent much of the past four years living under the constant threat of services being cut, closed or reorganised.

“Staff morale is at all time low and despite this they are working every hour caring for patients during the most challenging winter in years.

“The government must do everything it can to sort out all the underlying issues in the NHS – this includes the major dispute with trade unions over pay.

 

“We are only weeks away from NHS staff walking out for 12 and 24 hours and this dispute will not go away unless the government engages in meaningful talks.”

Theatre nurse Martin Jackson, who is also chair of the GMB’s NHS Committee, said “Frontline staff worked very hard over Christmas, often cancelling leave to deliver care and took the flak when all the while the chief, Mr Hunt, congratulates us for our efforts and insults us by not even awarding an expected 1% pay uplift.

“Overstretched wards are not the fault of frontline NHS staff. Staff demand that the problem is sorted out, as we are not just getting the time needed to help patients achieve the best outcomes.”

Chair of the Ambulance Committee Steve Rice said: “I have worked for the Ambulance Service for almost four decades and in this time I have worked under 17 Secretaries of State for Health. Over the last few years, time and time again warnings signs have been there that the service is at stretching point.

“Ambulance staffs have had one of the busiest Christmas and New Year periods and we are set to get even busier. The increase in waiting times means that we can’t hand patients over in A&E Departments. This means we can’t get back out on the road to get on with the job we do of saving lives”.

GMB’s NHS national officer Rehana Azam said: “Patients and staff are paying the price for the government’s failure to manage and invest sufficiently in the NHS. Staff morale is low and many staff are required to come in on their rest days to help deliver care in a service that is massively overstretched.

“GMB did not take strike action in December in the on-going pay dispute but this goodwill won’t continue in the New Year. GMB is consulting with ambulance staff on what a 48-hour walkout projected for end of January will mean in a service under severe pressure.

“NHS staff are expected to keep things ticking over while the Secretary of State for Health ignores calls to meet with unions to resolve a dispute and listen to the concerns of frontline NHS staff”.


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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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