The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 28th April 2017

Corbyn’s pledge to NHS staff

by Daphne Liddle

JEREMY Corbyn has begun his second week of general election campaigning with a pledge to lift the one per cent cap on pay rises for all NHS staff and to raise wages significantly throughout the NHS. He also pledged to reverse the abolition of bursaries for student nurses.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt claims that the money saved by cutting bursaries will allow them to recruit and train far more nurses than before. But figures released in February this year showed that applications by students in England to nursing and midwifery courses at British universities have fallen by 23 per cent after the Tories abolished NHS bursaries.

Nursing leaders said the sudden slump revealed by the latest university application data was inevitable given that student nurses now faced paying annual tuition fees of more than £9,000.

“These figures confirm our worst fears. The nursing workforce is in crisis and if fewer nurses graduate in 2020 it will exacerbate what is already an unsustainable situation,” said Janet Davies, the general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN). And she warned that the cuts put the future of nursing and the NHS in jeopardy.

Jon Ashworth, Labour’s Shadow health secretary, said that NHS staff had been “ignored, insulted, undervalued, overworked and underpaid” by the Tory government.

“Enough is enough,” he said. “What is bad for NHS staff is bad for patients too. Short staffing means reduced services and a threat to patient safety.

“Labour’s new guarantees for NHS staff will help keep services running at the standards which England’s patients expect.”

Dave Prentis, general secretary of the public sector union UNISON, which represents many NHS staff, said: “Lifting the one per cent cap would give health employees a long overdue pay rise and show just how much they’re valued.

“Funding for students doing health-related degrees is also crucial in boosting staff numbers.”

The move on pay and bursaries has also pleased the RCN. The union has already announced it will be taking soundings from its members about strike action over the pay cap.

It says a combination of pay freezes and caps on pay rises since 2010 have, in effect, led to a 14 per cent pay cut due to the rising cost of living.

RCN general secretary Janet Davies said: “A health service that works for patients must value its staff.” But she said the political parties should go further and promise to “increase investment” overall.

Meanwhile the Tories are falling into disarray. The Government has gone to court to be allowed to delay debating report on the number of deaths caused every year by heavily polluted air.

Illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide in the air, attributed in the main to diesel emissions, led to 40,000 early deaths in the last year alone.

This means that toxic air killed twice as many people last year as car crashes, breast cancer and murder combined. It is roughly equal to the number of people who die each year from heart disease.

The Government has applied to the High Court to use ‘purdah rules’ (which exempt some information from debate in the run-up to an election) to shut down the scandal. But that is not supposed to apply to urgent public health issues.

Two top spin doctors have just quit Theresa May’s team in Downing Street over issues to do with Brexit and the coming general election.

Theresa May’s official spokesperson Helen Bower quit in December following reports of angry bust-ups with May’s top aides. She has now joined Boris Johnson’s team as director of communications at the Foreign Office.

Ms Bower’s deputy, Greg Swift, then quit to become a spinner for Brexit Secretary David Davis. Britain’s EU Ambassador Sir Ivan Rogers quit in January with a devastating attack on Mrs May’s “muddled thinking” over Brexit.

May’s national security adviser Mark Lyall-Grant quit in February after reportedly falling out with Mrs May. And they all followed Northern Powerhouse guru Jim O’Neill, who quit as a Treasury Minister within weeks of the PM coming to power over her lack of support for his infrastructure projects.

Even Bank of England governor Mark Carney announced he was quitting two years early following the arrival of Mrs May in Downing Street.

And there is a serious battle being waged within Open Britain — a group of pro-Remain MPs — which has seen pro-Remain Tory MPs campaigning against their pro-Brexit colleagues in the general election.

This rather puts Jeremy Corbyn’s internal party problems into perspective.