Posts Tagged ‘NHS privatisation’

Why we are short of Nurses

Sunday, January 9th, 2022

Why we are short of Nurses
On January 9th 2016 I took the pictures shown here of a rally and march against the axing of bursaries for student nurses and midwives. The current huge surge in hospitalisation of Covid victims as Omicron rages through the nation has highlighted the huge shortage of qualified medical people in the NHS at all levels.

For years, but increasingly since the Tory-led coalition came to power in 2010, there have been huge shortages, with the NHS having to recruit from overseas – including from many poorer countries which are even more short of staff than the UK.

We have of course been bringing in nurses and doctors from abroad for many years – at least from the 1950s – rather than training enough from our own population. It has never been that there were not enough young people who want to be nurses and doctors – and in my years as a teacher I taught quite a few suitable young men and women who were well qualified but failed to gain admission to medical schools where there were perhaps 12 applicants for every place.

Hospitals have also become hugely reliant on agency nurses rather than directly employed staff, partly because of relatively low pay, but also because of a lack of self-defeating lack of flexibility by underfunded NHS hospitals which actually results in increased costs.

But for training nurses, the Tory government really messed things up in 2016 by removing the training bursaries for NHS nurses and midwives. Unlike other students they perform essential work for the NHS in hospitals caring for patients as an integral part of their courses, which makes it virtually impossible for them to undertake other part-time employment during their studies.

And in 2017 things got even worse and nursing students have had to pay tuition fees in the same way as other university students, leaving them with large loans to pay off when they complete their courses and go into employment.

Len McClusky, General Secretary of Unite next to a Unison banner

In 2020 the Royal College of Nursing published a report Beyond the Bursary: Workforce Supply which makes the point that at the start of the pandemic there were almost 40,000 nursing vacancies in the NHS in England alone, and called on government to develop a fully funded workforce strategy and aim for “an oversupply of nurses given years of underinvestment and the growing needs of our population.

The report notes that following the removal of the bursary there was a 31% drop in applicants for nursing courses, and over 4% fewer being accepted. Where we needed and increase in numbers being trained due to the shortage, government policies directly produced a decrease.

The RCN called on the government to abolish the tuition fees for nursing courses and reimburse the fees for those students affected by the removal of the bursary. And although the welcomed the decision to bring back an annual maintenance grant of £5000 for nursing students (£8,000 for some difficult to recruit specialities) from September 2020 they asked for that to be increased to a level that reflects the actual cost.

Of course the pandemic has made things worse. Some have died from Covid, partly as a result of the failure to provide effective protective clothing – and those contracts given to Tory mates with no experience in the field while some established companies failed to get orders. Many among those who recovered from Covid continue to suffer its after-effects – ‘long-Covid’. Others have simply been exhausted by overwork – and this is “a workforce that felt undervalued, unrewarded and where one in three were nearing retirement age.”

Brexit too has taken its toll, both with nurses from European countries leaving the UK and the failure of our government to respect the early promises it made to EU citizens working in the UK has not helped. Brexit and the continuing squabbles by the government over the treaty it signed is also a deterrent to people to now come and work here.

The shortage of nurses – and other medical staff – is a direct result of government policies. Not just the Tories but also of Labour under Blair and Brown, and is a part of the slow sabotaging of the NHS as a part of a policy of creeping privatisation that has been underway since at least the Thatcher years, though vastly accelerated since 2010. Unfortunately it isn’t as one placard states that the Tories are short-sighted, but that they are playing a long game to undermine our National Health Service.

More pictures on My London Diary:
NHS Bursaries March
NHS Bursaries rally before march


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A Busy 10th October – 2014

Sunday, October 10th, 2021

Solidarity for Care UK Strikers

NSSN, TUSC and Southwark Unison protested at the Care UK offices in Southwark during the nation-wide day of solidarity with Doncaster Care UK workers who had been on strike for 81 days after huge cuts in pay and services by a private equity company taking over a part of the NHS, part of the continuing largely hidden privatisation of our NHS.

This protest was one of many around the country outside offices of Care UK and Bridgepoint, the private equity firm that owns Care UK, as well as at shops including branches of Fat Face and Pret a Manger also owned by Bridgepoint. As I wrote:

Their strike is not just about their own cuts in wages, but a stand against the principles involved and the whole idea of a values-based health service. The workers at Care UK are no longer able to proudly address the needs of those with learning disorders in their own community, but are simply required to meet minimum needs at the lowest possible cost – and the greatest profit to Bridgepoint and the company to which they will be sold on once the private equity company has slimmed services and pay to the bone.

Solidarity for Care UK Strikers

Free Ghoncheh Ghavami – SOAS action

Protesters at outside SOAS called for the release of former SOAS Law student Ghoncheh Ghavami, held in prison for 104 days and on hunger strike for 10 days after being detained in Iran with other women after she went to watch a volleyball match. Among those who spoke at the protest was Ghavami’s brother.

According to Wikipedia, “Ghavami was released on bail on 23 November 2014. She was sentenced to a one-year jail term and a two-year travel ban.”

Free Ghoncheh Ghavami – SOAS action

City Panoramas

I had a little time to spare between events and took a short walk in the City, including along one of the remaining areas of ‘highwalk’ at the southwest of the Barbican site, part of the post-war plan to segregate pedestrians from traffic.

The Museum of London had decorated the wall at left with characters related to an exhibition about Sherlock Holmes.

This large building site was on what used to be St Alphage Highwalk. The ambitious post-war plans to separate pedestrians from traffic in the City were never really practical on a large scale and large sections such as this have been demolished, although there are still some highwalks including throughout the large Barbican estate.

City Panoramas

Palestine protest at Hewlett Packard

The Palestinian Prisoners Campaign continued their campaign against Hewlett-Packard, which boasts of ‘a massive presence’ in Israel and are the IT backbone for the Israeli war machine with a picket outside their London offices in Wood St in the City.

Palestine protest at Hewlett Packard

Solidarity with the Umbrella Revolution

The National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts organised a protest at the Chinese Embassy in solidarity with the ‘umbrella revolution’ of the students and workers of Hong Kong in their fight for democracy. Many of the protesters carried umbrellas and others had small yellow paper umbrellas as well as their posters and placards.

Solidarity with the Umbrella Revolution


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Five Years Ago – 13th July 2016

Tuesday, July 13th, 2021

Wednesday was a busy day for me on 13th July 2016, photographing five events in London.

Cleaners at the 100 Wood St offices were still on strike against the anti-union cleaning contractor Thames Cleaning, by then the longest running industrial dispute in the history of the City of London and supporters including Unite the Resistance, the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers, Class War and others held a rally in support of the action by the United Voices of the World trade union, beginning on Wood St and then moving on to the street outside CBRE who manage the offices.

CND members and supporters had come to Parliament to lobby MPs against the plans to replace Trident at a cost of at least £205 billion, and held a ‘Mad Hatters Tea Party’ in Parliament Square where members of Faith groups including both Christians and Buddhists held placards. Church leaders had written to The Times stating ‘The Government must take a lead – cancelling Trident would be a momentous step – Britain can lead the way!’ The government was instead led in its decisions by the lobbyists from those arms companies that profit greatly from these totally redundant weapons.

Also on Parliament Square was a protest supporting Labour MP for Wirral West Margaret Greenwood’s ‘Ten Minute Rule Bill’ with cross-party support to stop the privatisation of the NHS and return it to its founding principles. Among those who spoke was Shadow Health Minister Diane Abbot.

The day was also a ‘#PIPFightback’ National Day of Action against the Personal Independence Payments which disabled people say are a totally inadequate replacement for the Disabled Living Allowance. These rely on systematically flawed assessments carried out by private firms Capita and Atos which make no allowances for many variable conditions and ignore medical evidence. Administered by poorly qualified staff, many are overturned at tribunals after disabled people have suffered for months, sometimes leading to hospitalisation or suicide.

I’d started the day outside the Vauxhall PIP Consultation Centre run by ATOS in a back street with a small group of protesters including Gill Thompson, whose brother David Clapson, a diabetic ex-soldier died in July 2013 after his benefits were ‘sanctioned’. He was left starving without money for food or electricity to keep the fridge containing his insulin running. Like many his benefits had been stopped for trivial reasons and she was calling for a full and public inquiry into cases like those of her brother and to ensure a fairer system for vulnerable claimants.

Later people from the Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN), Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and Winvisible (Women with Invisible and Visible Disabilities) and other supporters met outside the Victoria St offices of Capita PLC, one of the companies responsible for PIP assessments and held a rally on the busy pavement there.

After some speeches they moved from the narrow pavement to the busy road to continue their protest, holding up traffic for a few minutes, though they quickly moved to one side to allow an ambulance to drive through.

From there the moved to hold a short protest outside the Department of Work & Pensions offices at Caxton House, and then on to Parliament Square for another short rally.

Finally they decided to go to College Green where a media village was present with politicians being interviewed on TV over the appointment of Theresa May as Prime Minister. Police tried to stop them going into the area, but after some moved in eventually allowed them to stand on a path in the middle of the area a few yards away from the TV crews, who almost all totally ignored the protesters. Disabled people suffering and even dying apparently isn’t news.

Solidarity for Wood St cleaners
Trident Mad Hatters Tea Party
Disabled PIP Fightback blocks Westminster
NHS Bill protest at Parliament
PIP Fightback at Vauxhall


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Save St Helier Hospital – 7 July 2018

Wednesday, July 7th, 2021

The battle by local campaigners against the closure of acute facilities at Epsom and St Helier Hospitals in south London has been hard fought and illustrates many of the problems faced by the NHS as the government has called for huge savings from hospital trusts, many made paupers by PFI repayments.

The situation continues to develop after the march which I photographed on Saturday 7th July 2018, and in July 2020 plans were approved to build a new smaller Specialist Emergency Care Hospital in Sutton which will bring together six acute services, A&E, critical care, acute medicine, emergency surgery, inpatient paediatrics and maternity services.

The trust say in the documentation for the first phase of public consultation which closed on 30th June 2021 that “85% of current services will stay at Epsom Hospital and St Helier Hospital. There will be urgent treatment centres open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year at both of these hospitals.”

But health service unions and campaigners are worried by the proposals, which they say will strip acute services including two fully functioning A&E departments. The proposed urgent treatment centres will not have the capacity to treat life threatening illness. They say the downgrading of the two major hospitals will endanger the lives of people living in the area.

The new unit is one of 40 across the country which have been announced several times as a part of the governments increased investment in the NHS. Many see this and other similar schemes as being designed to increase privatisation and make involvement in the health service more attractive to healthcare companies.

July 7th was a sweltering hot day in London, and the walk from a park in the centre of Sutton to the St Helier Open Space in front of the hospital went through Sutton High St, fairly crowded with shoppers and then along hot, dusty streets with few people around. Walking was tiring, and taking photographs even more so. It was a difficult event to photograph, where I found relatively little to work with. But I was pleased to be there, supporting the campaign to keep the hospitals open and serving the community, part of a National Health Service that was celebrating 70 years of being brought into existence by a Labour Government.

It took a huge and deterimined fight by Nye Bevan to get the National Health Service Act passed, with Tories denouncing it as bringing National Socialism to the country and opposing it in parliament at every opportunity. But on 5th July 1948 we got the NHS, although almost ever since the Conservative party when in power has been looking for and finding ways to convert it from a universal public health care system to a service run for private profit.

NHS at 70 – Save St Helier Hospital

Save Our NHS

Thursday, March 4th, 2021

The past year has made all of us appreciate both what a great national asset our National Health Service is and also – unless we are blinkered Tories – to realise how much it has been run down as a deliberate Conservative policy ever since the Tories came into power in 2010. Though of course its problems also come from decisions taken by earlier governments, and in particular the disastrous PFI contracts taken out under New Labour which involve huge and continuing debt repayments by parts of the NHS.

Even the Tories have come to realise that the NHS reorganisation under Andrew Lansley’s 2012 Health and Social Care Act were a mistake, although the fine print of their 2021 White Paper makes clear that they are still – as in 2017 when I photographed this ‘Save Our NHS’ march – pursuing their goal of rapid stealthy privatisation with medical services increasingly being run for private profit rather than public benefit, threatening an increasingly under funded public service which delivers high quality service at low cost and remains the envy of the world.

This privatisation is continuing. Last month it was announced that Operose Health Ltd, a UK subsidiary of one of the larger US health insurance companies, is taking over AT Medics, which runs 49 General Practice surgeries across London, with around 370,000 Londoners registered at them. When the takeover was finalised on 10th Feb, the six GPs who had been the directors of AP Medics resigned and were replaced by Operose staff – who include two who had in previous years held high-level positions in NHS England, a public body of the Department of Health set up to oversee the commissioning side of the NHS under that 2012 Act.

The Save our NHS March on March 4th, 2017 pointed out that the Sustainability and Transformation Plans which NHS organisations and local authorities were made to produce as 5 year plans from 2016-21, intended to counteract some of the worst effects of the 2012 Act, were leading to cuts in services and hospital closure and had already caused many premature deaths. They are a part of the rapid stealthy privatisation with medical services increasingly being run for private profit rather than public benefit, threatening an increasingly under funded public service which delivers high quality service at low cost and remains the envy of the world.

It was a large march, and made up largely of those who work in various parts of the NHS and have clear view of the actual consequences of the effects of government actions, and many of them spoke before the march set off. Most medical professionals do the work they do through a strong sense of vocation rather than being motivated by money, and as we have seen over the past year, many have worked long over their paid hours, and often with inadequate personal protection because of decisions taken to lower the stocks of supplies and the cuts in beds, the cutting of support for the training of nurses, changes to contracts for junior doctors and other measures.

Looking at the faces in these pictures – and I took many more on the day – I wonder how many of them have died because of their dedication to their job of saving our lives. I wonder how many are suffering the prolonged debilitating effects of ‘long covid’, how many mental illness because of a year of working under extreme stress.

Some carried signs ‘Born in the NHS’. I wasn’t but I grew up with it and it was there when I needed it, and still is. Others carried that quote attributed to Aneurin Bevan, though he probably never said it,”The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it.” There were perhaps 50,000 on this march showing they were ready to do so.

More pictures in My London Diary: Save our NHS March


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.