Overwhelmingly positive support again from public for second NHS strike at Calderdale Royal Hospital

There was a good turn out at the Calderdale Royal Hospital NHS staff strike picket on the frosty morning of Monday 24th November.

Unlike the first NHS staff strikers’ picket a few weeks ago, NHS staff and supporters only picketed the main hospital entrance on Dryclough Lane this time.

Mick Coughlan, a member of staff at Calderdale Royal Hospital, said,

“As a member of UNISON I’m taking part in industrial action in protest at the decision by the Lib Dem/Conservative government’s decision not to implement the independent pay review body’s recommendation to give NHS staff a 1% pay rise. This must be contrasted with the MP’s pay review body suggestion of 11% for them being accepted. All in it together?”

On the picket was  mix of UNISON, GMB and Unite members and the Bakers Union (who brought flapjacks from an independent bakery). To make up for the freezing cold, a UNISON member brought a camping stove, kettle, paper cups and coffee.

Mick Coughlan said,

“On the picket we were busy handing out leaflets, drinking coffee, eating flapjack, waving at supporters who hooted their horns and shivering in the cold. It was great. There was overwhelmingly positive support again from the public.”

There was also good support on the picket from non-NHS staff. This included members of Calderdale 38 Degrees NHS campaign and Calderdale Green Party, as well as Halifax mum Katherine Horner, who organised the Halifax to Wakefield Walk for the NHS last August.

Katherine Horner supporting NHS Staff picket - photo credit: Martin Crozier

Martin Crozier, of Calderdale 38 Degrees NHS campaign, said

“Most of the patients attending clinics in the hospital were favourable to the striking workers’ cause, with only a handful opposed. The regular hooting by passing cars and other vehicles was most welcome and spirit lifting.”

Since the Coalition Government came to power in 2010, NHS workers’ wages have fallen by 15 per cent in real terms.

But Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Health, has not only refused to pay the one per cent pay rise recommended by the independent NHS pay review body –  he has also announced that  NHS staff in England and Northern Ireland won’t get any pay rise in 2015/16.

This meanness contrasts with the Welsh Assembly government’s award of  a £187 pay rise for NHS staff this year and the promise of one per cent increase in 2015-16; and the Scottish government’s awarded of a one per cent pay rise for NHS staff this year plus an extra £300 to low paid workers.

Government funding of the NHS has fallen below the level needed to keep up with population growth and rising demand.

In addition, the heavy costs of the Calderdale Royal Hospital’s Private Finance Initiative contract, as well as the government’s call for massive “efficiency savings” that Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust is unable to satisfy, have all put the hospitals’ finances in a bad way, with a deficit looming at the end of this financial year.

The need to hand over £4m to Calderdale Council to pay for the “Better Care Fund” has further hit the hospitals Trust finances, and the NHS Commissioners‘ plans to cut acute and emergency hospital services and replace them with care in the community for frail older people and people with chronic illnesses threatens to further destabilise the hospitals Trust.

The costs of NHS marketisation/privatisation are conservatively estimated at £4.5bn/year – an amount that could pay for 174,798 extra nurses. If the new 2015 Parliament enacts the NHS Reinstatement Bill, which would end the marketisation/privatisation of the NHS, this would return that £4.5bn to front line NHS services and fill the £30bn funding gap that’s projected to open up by 2020.

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