Save Our Hospitals

ImageTaken from the Ealing Gazette

Ealing Hospital is a pretty busy place on an average day, but today’s demonstration of a community’s united outrage was anything but average. 

Having massed from 10am in Southall Park, two thousand people marched East along the Uxbridge Road today to protest against further proposed NHS cuts, including A&E closures at Ealing, Central Middlesex, Charing Cross and Hammersmith. Meeting a further horde who had gathered at Acton Park and taken the same road West, the full contingent then joined together for a huge rally at Ealing Common where there were speeches from MPs, community leaders, and live music to round off the proceedings.

These are not a few disgruntled Labour supporters who simply abhor change, this is an entire community comprised of all different ages, races, faiths and backgrounds standing shoulder to shoulder to tell the Con-Dem(n) government that they have gone, and are continuing to go, too far.  Feet from where I was, Ealing Gazette reporter Rupert Basham tweeted that there was a “strong sense the community is all in this together, and that these closures are a matter of life death”.  I agree wholeheartedly, but standing outside Ealing Hospital with my colleagues and neighbours today – on my 30 min break from my NHS day job on the very same site – I was given pause, moved by the camaraderie and commonality of purpose but equally saddened that mutual anger and outrage are the ties that bind us.

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Unfortunately I had to return to work, but the crowd – which included babes in arms and pensioners on mobility scooters – carried on marching, shouting and waving their banners a further three miles to Ealing Common.  Once there they were addressed by the leaders of Ealing’s three main political parties, Julian Bell (Labour), David Millican (Conservative) and Gary Malcolm (Lib Dem).  There were also speeches from GMB President Mary Turner, Ealing MPs Steve Pound and Angie Bray, Shirley Franklin from ‘Save Whittington Hospital’, and Dr Onkar Sahota (Ealing’s representative on the Greater London Authority).

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Taken from Ealing Gazette

The fact of the matter is that, despite its ever-increasing cost, the NHS is the jewel of Britain.  Forget the Royals and forget the Olympics, if you ask someone from another country what the best thing about the UK is they will tell you (often at length) that it is our health service, which still just about holds on to its original aims of providing universal healthcare that is free at the point of use.  They see what we cannot, that once lost the NHS will never ever be rebuilt – certainly not if the Conservative party have anything to say about it.  Yes, it’s expensive, but what would be the social cost of it disappearing into the ether?  Those that have least will suffer most – as seems to be the case with every new policy under our incumbent government – and it will impact most severely on the elderly, who in a wonderful sense of irony have contributed most in the way of taxation in their lifetimes.  Do we really want an American system where the first question on arriving at Hospital is not “how are you feeling” but “who is your insurer”?  I think not, and judging by today’s display of solidarity I am not the only one.

Almost six years of working for the NHS has made me realise that, although it is not perfect, it is full of people who are doing their absolute best to help the wider community.  Money, or lack thereof, is the primary reason for all the health service’s problems and deeper and deeper cuts are overtaxing staff and short-changing the taxpayer.

In the mental health sector, where I work, chronic understaffing and the removal of ‘non-essential’ staff (whether they are essential or not depends whether you are talking to the patients or politicians) is hitting us hard.  In an environment where staffing costs are 75% of our total budget, colleagues, service users and the wider public are feeling the impact of the financial squeeze.  Therapy groups, essential to rehabilitation, are cut down to the bare minimum with rumours of more to go.  Staff have less time to spend with their patients as they are so overstretched, and when someone is very unwell this can result in assaults and injuries to both staff and patients.  This unfortunately is always a possibility given the nature of the place we work, but the situation is exacerbated with every fresh slice into the budget – how can we care for people with both hands tied behind our backs?

But don’t worry – if you get assaulted you can go to A&E…for now.

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About Deborah Klayman

Deborah is an actress, musician, voice artist and writer based in the UK. She trained at the University of Northumbria, where she gained a 1st Class BA (Hons) in Performance, and at Drama Studio London (Postgraduate Diploma in Acting). Deborah has performed in the UK and overseas in a variety of roles which include Emilia in 'Othello' and Juliana Tesman in 'Hedda Gabler' in rep, Regan in 'King Lear', Mrs Pugh/Polly Garter in 'Under Milk Wood' and Fluellen/Alice in Henry V. An accomplished cellist and singer, the projects she undertakes frequently utilise her musical talents. Film and TV roles include: Geordie in a TV pilot for 'Dead Man's Cardy', Reporter in 'Mission London', Sarah in 'For Better or Worse', and Nurse Tremaine in 'Another Day. Deborah is also a successful voice artist, recording projects for companies such as M&C Saatchi/Silverfish Media, BP, Oxford University Press and The Scottish Sunday Express. Deborah is a talented writer, penning plays and screenplays primarily on issues surrounding social justice. Her first play, 'Janetarium', was one of three selected through the Traverse Theatre's Class Act project and was subsequently staged at the Traverse and published in Theatre Scotland Magazine. She later joined the theatre's Young Writers Group, and continued to write and devise plays throughout her university and drama school training. In 2005, she co-authored "Eve & Lilith" with Jessica Martenson which was produced at that year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe. In 2011, Deborah co-founded Whoop 'n' Wail Theatre Company with friend, collaborator and writing partner Ali Kemp. Their debut production, 'eXclusion', was produced in association with UK charity Women In Prison and toured to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, London's Waterloo East Theatre, and Bracknell's South Hill Park Arts Centre. Their latest venture, "Whoop 'n' Wail Represents...", showcases new writing that puts gender equality centre stage, working with even numbers of female and male writers and directors to stage plays that pass the Bechdel Test. Deborah was one of the Traverse Theatre's 'Traverse Fifty' (a year-long writing attachment in 2013), and Whoop 'n' Wail's play 'My Bloody Laundrette' recently won the Cambridge University Press "Channel the Bard" competition. View all posts by Deborah Klayman

3 responses to “Save Our Hospitals

  • Bernie Mayall

    Our NHS is indeed precious and worth protecting, but it also needs protecting from sentiment and from poor and shabby practice. There are many good, decent workers, a considerable amount of excellent practice and professional behaviour. There is also a huge amount of time wasting, poor practice and unprofessional often dangerous practice and neglect. Before we start to shout “save our NHS” we need to be clear about what it is we want to save and which bits are actually worth ditching. With a finite budget, any business or practice has to be clear about what it can offer, what it wants to offer and what it needs to offer – in the case of healthcare it is a sensitive and controversial process. We have to be clear sighted, recognise the reality – that we actually have to pay for the services, goods and medicines that contribute to the delivery of safe and professional care and support – and take a good, cool, look at what is, in fact, holding it back. I wrote a blog when my Mother was dying in hospital – I was so ashamed of and scared of the level of neglect and ineptitude that I had to share it. It was beyond appalling, and the people running and staffing the wards should have hung their heads and removed the word “care” from their job descriptions. Not everywhere, and not everyone, is like them, but there are enough to make it unsurprising. And they have been allowed to get away with it because they have been poorly managed and poorly recruited and trained.

    Now – let’s sort some of that out and I will join your picketline.

    • Deborah Klayman

      Thanks for your comments Bernie. I take your points about good practice – I can’t say as staff member or service user I have not witnessed or experienced bad practice – however, that said, cutting funding to frontline essential services will not improve that situation and there is no viable alternative to the NHS that would not leave vulnerable people at greater risk. As you rightly say, effective management of what we have is what is needed, but cutting a&e services from every west London hospital is quite frankly criminal and does not address the concerns most people have about failings in the health service.

      • Bernie Mayall

        I couldn’t agree more. Cuts for cuts sake are no way to drive up standards and reduce risks for the vulnerable – and we are all vulnerable in crisis. But I have real concerns that with the very realistic fears around this kind of cut – to A&E for example – are causing us to lose sight of the fact that it, the NHS, is a flawed monolith. Our sentimental view of Our Dear Old NHS is actually preventing us from looking coolly at the real needs and real pathways to protect a democratic human right for health services.Sadly there are some who use this to manipulate us and drive us in a different direction, possibly, to the one that will in reality achieve what most of us want: a better, holistic, supportive, well managed, properly managed, appropriate service that delivers real care and support in tandem with medical skill and knowledge when it is needed, where it is needed, and to whom it is needed. I genuinely applaud people who take to the streets like this to support the NHS and to flag the troubles – I was a union rep back in the day and have organised similar when Thatcher arrived! But I have a real fear that for most people this protest is where it stops, and it masks the real and compelling need for difficult reform if we are to continue to have free at the point of access healthcare.

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