Issue date
05 Jul 2017

Happy Birthday to our NHS by Beth Farhat

NHS Birthday

I love birthdays, as it’s an opportunity to celebrate someone you care about, to reflect on their life and what they mean to you. Today there is a birthday that is particularly important to me because of the excellent advice, support and care my mum received when she was living with motor neurone disease. The 5th July marks the 69th Birthday for our NHS; but it will be hard for me to celebrate the NHS without also feeling the concern many people feel about the crisis that is looming over its future.

A&E is in disarray, waiting times are going through the roof, more and more parts of it are being privatised, and the thing that is concerning me the most is our shortage of staff, particularly nurses which is putting people lives at risk.

The ONS shows that between 2013 and 2015 there was a 50% increase in nursing vacancies from 12,513 to 18,714. That number currently stands at 24,000. It’s no surprise, then, that every single UK hospital now has a shortage of nurses.

‘The NHS Support Federation and TUC Report’, gives us some real examples of what is going wrong and it is worrying

•             75% of A&E nurses said their shift did not meet recommended ratios of at least two registered nurses to one trauma patient.

•             The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) found midwives were driven away from the NHS by excessive workloads and poor staffing levels, many citing safety as an issue. 80% of heads of midwifery reported vacancies in their unit.

•             The Royal College of GPs (RCGP) warned that by 2020 the UK will face a shortfall of nearly 10,000 GPs, with one in 15 practices closing. At the same time, it’s been discovered that 15% of all A&Es are now facing closure.

We benefit from large numbers of EU workers in our health service but as Brexit looms we face less and less EU citizens choosing to come to the UK and there are already reports that EU based nurse applicant number are falling.  Currently just under 50,000 citizens from the EEA work in the NHS, including over 9,000 doctors, 18,000 nurses, midwives and health visitors and 2,500 allied health professionals, such as physios and radiographers. These workers provide a vital source of skills and expertise and we can’t risk losing them. Particularly when our own government will not commit to the adequate funding for new British nurses like nurses bursaries, or even offer a real pay rise for existing nurses or health workers.

Leaving the EU without guaranteed rights for European citizens working in the NHS would almost certainly create a short term staffing crisis in the NHS with detrimental impacts on service delivery.

To celebrate our NHS 69th birthday Campaigners will be holding events across the region to raise awareness about the crisis the NHS is facing.  Why not join us

When: 12 noon – 2pm:    Where: Greys Monument Newcastle

When: 2.30pm:     Where: Main gates of the RVI Hospital, Newcastle upon Tyne

When: 12 – 2pm   Where: QE Hospital Gateshead