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TUC congress: Let's work together on NHS, delegates told

9 September 2014 - 5:16pm

MP and shadow sports minister Clive Efford urged delegates to sign an online petition calling for end to what he termed the ‘creeping privatisation of the NHS’.

Lesley Mercer at TUC congress 2014 fringe meeting. Photo: Jess Hurd

Lesley Mercer chairs the All together for the NHS meeting at TUC Congress in Liverpool. Photo: Jess Hurd

Mr Efford, Labour MP for Eltham in south east London, was one of a panel of speakers at a lunchtime fringe meeting on Tuesday chaired by Lesley Mercer, the CSP’s director of employment relations and union services. The event was titled All together for the NHS.

Mr Efford urged delegates working in the NHS to speak up and tell people about what was happening in today’s health service, noting that MPs were unlikely to sway members of the public who had entrenched views.

Panel member and midwife Jenny Brown painted a stark picture of life on the wards, in which cutbacks had led to canteen opening hours being curtailed. Her colleagues brought in meals but could often not find the time to take breaks to eat them, and patients relied on microwave meals around the clock.

Many staff worked extra unpaid hours and ‘lived from pay cheque to pay cheque’, relying on loans and emergency credit cards in a bid to make ends meet. Formerly, there had been a specialist midwife for child protection but now one nurse was responsible for child protection issues for all local babies and children.

Suzanne Tyler, the Royal College of Midwives’ director of services to members, said she had been heartened by a recent poll showing that 80 per cent of the British population backed a one per cent pay rise for NHS staff. Nearly two thirds (63 per cent) of women supported moves by midwives to take industrial action over pay, she said.

Locally-based health campaigner Margaret Pritchard, 80, asked why NHS hospitals offered a free 24-hour back-up emergency service to private hospitals treating patients on behalf of the NHS. Ms Pritchard, who is from Knowsley, said: ‘The private hospitals are costing us millions.’

Ms Mercer said she was pleased that 50-plus delegates had found the time to attend the fringe meeting, despite the packed congress agenda. ‘They heard how demoralised staff are right across the NHS and how life in the health service could be so much better for patients and staff.’   

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