“As it prepares to turn 70, the NHS is coming towards the worst decade in its existence as far as funding goes,” UNISON’s local government delegates heard as they discussed the crisis in health and social care.
The mover of the motion said that “services have been repeatedly run down by a government that prefers tax cuts for the wealthy to a well-funded NHS… we now have a permanent winter for our NHS and workloads and stress loads have gone through the roof for many members.”
Tracy Holmes, from Sefton local government branch, told delegates about the bad practise in homecare she had witnessed: from visits of just five minutes scheduled, to homecare workers being denied ID cards by their employers and having to persuade vulnerable people to let them in to their homes.
Many members spoke of how critical it is to address the issues of health and social care together, and that problems in one affect the other.
One member pointed out that one of the many problems with the privatisation of much of social care is that the recently-won pay rise for NHS workers will not apply to social care workers who work for private companies.
A moving speech on behalf of disabled members was made by Kath McGuinness, who said “if anyone understands that health and social care is in crisis, it’s disabled people.”
As a low-paid woman working as a cook in a residential care home for elderly people with Alzheimers, she stressed that “we must protect our heavily stretched health and social care service for disabled people. My own mam is in private care because where I live in Northumberland there is no local government care.”
The importance of fighting for mental health services was discussed by many members. Steve Bell, who works in mental health in the south east region, told the hall that two weeks ago he had been looking for a bed for a client on an acute psychiatric ward and was told there were no beds available in the whole of England and Wales.
“The shortage of beds is now a common occurrence,” he said.
`“What it means for the clients is that often they are moved to beds far away from their families and the professionals that work with them. This often results in a prolonged stay. You have to get well quickly in mental health.”
Conference voted to support a detailed 10-point plan:
- continue to work with the TUC, STUC, WTUC, ICTU and other unions to demand that our health and social care system gets the level of funding needed to deliver comprehensive, safe, high quality services;
- campaign against any proposals made by STPs or other reorganisations that present dangers to staff, patients or service users;
- produce guidance and targeted resources to support branches to take an organising approach to the changing health and social care landscape;
- continue to promote UNISON’s ethical care and residential care charters by pressing for more councils to sign up to them;
- campaign for the government to force social care companies to maintain clear minimum wage records and clear and understandable payslips for workers;
- campaign for regulatory change to oblige social care employers to provide their workers with a statement demonstrating compliance with the minimum wage;
- work to resist privatisation in all its forms, including by supporting regions and branches in campaigning against the establishment of wholly owned subsidiary companies in the NHS and urging the government to close the tax loophole that is driving this agenda;
- continue to campaign for social care to be directly delivered by the public sector, paid for by general taxation and both universal and free at the point of need;
- work with local and national campaign groups to ensure that UNISON remains in touch with those fighting cuts and privatisation in our communities;
- mark the NHS turning 70 by supporting the Health Campaigns Together demonstration and celebration events on Saturday 30 June.