Writing in the Telegraph (December 20, 2022), Steve Barclay, the Conservative Health Secretary, claimed that the action of Ambulance unions, whose members voted to take strike action across much of the country, represented a “conscious choice to inflict harm on patients”.
So, what do we make of the sombre Leicester Mercury headline on News Year Eve 2022 (‘Critical incident’ at Leicester hospitals with people urged not to call 999 unless absolutely necessary)?
Ambulance workers are not currently on strike.
Nurses are not currently on strike, and nor have they been in Leicester at any point.
Yet in spite of this, conditions which pose an undeniably threat to patient safety persist.
The truth is that the responsibility for deteriorating conditions in our NHS falls squarely into the lap of this and previous governments.
A report from the British Medical Association last week showed that below inflation pay offers, overwork, and other factors means that 4 in 10 junior doctors are now actively looking for alternative employment.
This is in addition to a recruitment and retention crisis which now sees vacancy rates in our NHS at close to 140,000 – their highest ever!
In July 2022, the Care Quality Commission found that “staffing levels, waiting times, as well as delays in treatment and ambulance handovers” were areas of concern in Leicester’s hospitals.
It is becoming increasingly clear to the vast majority that it is the status quo that is the biggest threat to patients and that the government is trying to stand reality on its head.
It is this government that has made a conscious choice to inflict harm on patients.
Striking NHS workers are trying to push back against precisely these conditions.
Meanwhile, Steve Barclay is refusing to even negotiate on pay, leading to yet more harm.
Little wonder that a poll by YouGov showed that the NHS strikes have the support of two-thirds of the public.
Save Our NHS Leicestershire is holding a public meeting on Saturday March 4, 2023, where you can hear from NHS staff themselves on why they are striking.
We expect the meeting to take place at the Adult Education Centre in Wellington Street – watch this space for more details.