Year 2000 No. 130, August 9, 2000

Ambulance Crew Strike Call Underlines Crisis in NHS

Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index :

Ambulance Crew Strike Call Underlines Crisis in NHS

News In Brief
Longer Waiting for Out-Patients
CBI Paints Gloomy Picture for Manufacturing

Readers' Forum
No. 4: What Stand to Take on the European Union

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Ambulance Crew Strike Call Underlines Crisis in NHS

Yesterday, union representatives of the crews of the London Ambulance Service met to set a date to ballot the 2,300 staff on strike action.

The management of the LAS failed to honour an agreement that holidays should be allowed unless more than 10 per cent of the workforce is off at the same time. Some of the workers were told to cancel their holidays because the service is so short-staffed. Decisions as to whether to grant leave are being left to the discretion of local managers.

The move comes only a week after an internal report, produced by the London Ambulance Service NHS Trust, which revealed that there were alarming pressures on the service, because of underfunding and understaffing. The report set out 70 specific improvements. It is estimated that the present level of funding means that there are as many as 500 preventable deaths each year.

UNISON branch secretary, Eric Roberts, described the management's move as "the straw that broke the camel's back". He explained: "The service is understaffed and there are problems when people take leave, but there is a procedure for that. It is the way this has been done which has really angered our members."

The London Ambulance Service has been without a chief executive since the resignation of the Michael Honey in February, although the LAS is expected to announce a new appointment this week.

Speaking of the LAS, Geoff Martin, director of London Health Emergency, said: "To punish staff for a crisis which is not of their making is scandalous. It is a rudderless ship and somebody really needs to come in and take control."

While the NHS Plan was announced by the government with much fanfare as the biggest reform since the NHS was founded, the day-to-day reality is of continuing crisis in the health service. Nursing staff and health care workers, including the ambulance crews, are being put under severe pressure. Not only that, but they are taking the brunt of the burden of the crisis, while being the first to be blamed and held responsible when they take a stand.

This dispute is no exception. It is not the ambulance crews who are putting lives at risk, as the management claims, but the crisis in the health service. It is criminal to accuse the workers of irresponsibility, while the crying need is to safeguard the future of the health service by increasing its funding and ensuring that the needs of the people for an all-round decent standard of health care are met.

The LAS staff, in common with other health workers in various parts of the country, are also noted for their work, for example, in support of the blockaded state of Cuba, a country which despite the blockade has a health service which is second to none. The London ambulance staff last year raised thousands of pounds to send 16 ambulances to the socialist country, and aims to send as many as 50 more this year.

Article Index


News In Brief

Longer Waiting for Out-Patients

Government figures have shown that waiting times for out-patient appointments in England rose in June.

The number of people waiting more than 13 weeks for an out-patient appointment rose by 42,880 to 444,000. This contrasts with a fall of only 5,000 to 1,047,900 in the numbers on the waiting lists for in-patient treatment.

CBI Paints Gloomy Picture for Manufacturing

Manufacturers are suffering in most regions of Britain, with orders lower and confidence down.

This is the conclusion of a survey of industrial trends produced by the CBI and business consultancy Business Strategies. The report shows steep falls in confidence in the West Midlands, the South West and the North West of England. As regards exporters, firms in the South East of England, the West Midlands and the East Midlands reported sharp falls in confidence.

Employment estimates, based on the survey, forecast jobs in manufacturing falling in seven of the 11 regions of Britain in the third quarter of this year. The largest percentage falls are expected in the North West of England and Wales.

Article Index


Readers' Forum

No. 4: What Stand to Take on the European Union

Q: I am unambiguously socialist and I am firmly pro-European Union. Could you inform me as to whether my views are incompatible with the beliefs of this party as I don't believe my views on Europe will change. Could you explain to me why you consider this to be an anti-Communist standpoint as it has always been my belief that a united Europe is the key to radical socialism becoming the main political force throughout the continent.

A: We thank the reader for raising this question in a serious manner. We think the question of what stand to take on the European Union is a very serious issue. Like any serious question, discussion should be deepened on it, people drawn into the discussion, and the matter fully investigated. Of course, the proviso in doing this is that the aim must be for a stand to be taken in favour of the people, particularly the working class who have the historical role of leading society out of the crisis.

It is with this orientation in mind, which we also take to be that of the reader, that we state our position.

The first point to draw out is that when the question is put in this way, it is not really a matter of "beliefs" of our Party on the European Union. The reader may not have meant to use this word, which is more appropriate to religious faith or matters of conscience. But we would just like to emphasise that the starting point must be the world as it is. To discuss about this world is a crucial activity, not from the point of view of making it a matter of interpretation, but in order to counter preconceptions, combat one-sidedness, get closer to the world as it really is, engage in the cut and thrust of ideas, and ultimately to change the situation in accordance with the demands of progress and to bring about a world fit for human beings. Again, we think we would be at one with the sentiments of the reader on this matter.

The second point which it may be best to get out of the way is that we are sure the questioner is not an anti-communist. We do not start from the position that if someone were to take issue with our arguments and stands, that would justify us in labelling that person "anti-communist". Rather, anti-communism is a conscious policy and activity of those forces who wish to put a block on the further development of society, and commit any crime against humanity just so long as people do not become enlightened or are deprived of the possibility of deciding their own affairs.

All that being said, we would like to begin by succinctly stating our stand, and then dealing more specifically with the questions that the reader has posed. The stand of RCPB(ML) on this, as on other political questions, arises from the need of the working class and people to adopt a fighting programme which will lead society out of its crisis and resolve the problems that face the people day after day. Such a pro-social programme has as its starting point that the inviolable rights of all human beings be recognised. That being so, it is a crucial element of such a programme that it demands that the people be able to exercise their sovereignty. Therefore our Party holds that all economic, political and military alliances based on big power domination be ended, because such blocs and alliances stand in opposition to the exercise of this inviolable right. In particular, our Party calls for British withdrawal from the European Union and NATO, and for their dismantling. The right of all peoples of the world to live according to the social system of their choice must be recognised.

(to be continued)

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