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    Biomedical scientists in the frontline of Covid-19 testing at a Lancashire NHS trust are losing about £7,000-a-year because hardline bosses refuse to pay ‘the going rate for the job’.
    Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, said that the Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is facing a retention crisis as underpaid biomedical scientists are voting with their feet and moving to other trusts in the north west that pay the correct Agenda for Change (AfC) pay rate.
    Now the 13 biomedical scientists, who carry out vital tests once patients have been admitted to hospital with Covid-19, will be balloted from Monday 9 November for strike action or industrial action short of a strike. The ballot closes on Thursday 19 November.
    The crux of the dispute is that the biomedical scientists have been held back on Band 5 (AfC), despite qualifying for Band 6 (just under £38,000-a-year) due to working unsupervised for a number of years. The majority of Unite’s 13 members have lost about £7,000 annually as Band 5 pays about £30,000.
    Unite regional officer Keith Hutson said: “Our biomedical scientists have had years of training and are highly skilled, but are not paid a fortune. They are in the frontline of carrying Covid-19 related tests once patients are admitted to hospital.
    “Yet, we have a hardline trust management that is not prepared to pay ‘the going rate for the job’ for essential NHS workers at a time of national emergency.
    “This issue has been dragging on for over a year. At the start of the pandemic earlier this year, our members, as an act of good faith, put this dispute on the backburner.
    “When the number of infections dropped in the summer, we raised this issue again – but have been met by a brick wall from a skinflint management. Our members are being ripped off and short-changed which is not a great advert for this trust.
    “The result is that we have a retention crisis at the Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust as our members are voting with their feet and move to trusts, such as in Blackpool and Blackburn, which appreciate their skills and dedication during this challenging time for the NHS – and pay the proper rate for the job.
    “Now, reluctantly, our members will be balloted for industrial action. However, there is a generous window of opportunity for the management to resolve this dispute and Unite’s door is open 24/7 for constructive talks.”
    The trust covers Chorley and South Ribble Hospital, and the Royal Preston Hospital.
    Shaun Noble
    Unite senior communications officer 
    Comments Off on Biomedical scientists carrying out Covid-19 tests at Lancashire NHS trust ‘short-changed’ by £7,000-a-year
    There has been too much reliance on the private sector when it comes to laboratory testing for coronavirus and not enough investment in long-established NHS facilities, Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, said today (Wednesday 16 September).
    Unite’s stance is underpinned by its Biomedical Scientist Covid-19 survey, launched today, which highlights the under-use of NHS science facilities and resources as the crisis over the nationwide gaps in the Covid-19 testing regime escalates.
    The survey reveals Unite members’ unhappiness at the government’s reliance and priority given to the seven Lighthouse Laboratories, with private sector involvement, while long-established NHS facilities are being apparently sidelined when it comes to investment.
    The report is being sent to health and social care secretary Matt Hancock, and the chair of the Commons health and social care select committee Jeremy Hunt, as well as MPs.
    The survey said: Concerns about under-utilisation of NHS resources were matched by concerns around the introduction of the new Lighthouse Laboratories and the impact this was having on NHS services.
    “Broadly these concerns focused on the quality of services provided, the diversion of resources from the public sector and the decision making, and transparency process used to commission these new laboratories.
    Healthcare science staff and their trade unions have been left in the dark regarding these processes.”
    More than 85 per cent of the survey’s respondents agreed that there was concern about the service quality from the Lighthouse Laboratories and over 90 per cent concurred that there were worries about the transparency and contracting arrangements for these laboratories.
    In contrast, only 38 per cent said their NHS laboratories were working at full capacity, but there was near unanimous support for further investment in NHS labs, so they are well-placed to undertake the mass testing of millions envisaged by Operation Moonshot.
    Unite said that Operation Moonshot should not become ‘an ill-deserved pay day bonanza’ for private healthcare companies which had fallen short during the pandemic to the extent that they have asked the NHS to help out.
    Unite lead officer for healthcare science Gary Owen said: “The government’s obsession with involving the private sector in the Covid-19 ‘trace and test’ regime has been shown to be flawed and misguided, as more and more people report difficulties in trying to get a test near to their home.
    “If ministers have learnt any lessons from Covid-19 it should be that the NHS, with the right level of investment, is best placed to provide laboratory testing for such a global pandemic as we are currently going through.”
    Chair of the Unite healthcare science committee Ian Evans said: “Long-established NHS laboratories with a wealth of professional experience built up over decades appear to have been marginalised in the battle against coronavirus – this has been a huge mistake.”

    The report can be accessed via:

    https://unitetheunion.org/media/3331/9199_biomed-scientists_survey_summer2020_final-digital.pdf

    The survey was distributed on two dates in June by email to all Unite members within healthcare science. This snapshot survey generated 388 responses from across the UK.

    Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble

    Comments Off on Stop private sector outsourcing, as NHS laboratories ‘sidelined’ for Covid-19 testing, says Unite
    Public Health England (PHE) and its dedicated staff are being lined up as ‘the fall guy’ for ministers’ bungling over the handling of the coronavirus pandemic, Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, said today (Monday 17 August).
    Unite, which is the lead union for employees at PHE, said that instead of merging PHE into a new body charged with preventing future pandemics, the PHE should continue in its present role – and the money cut from its budget by the government should be restored.
    Unite also said that there should be proper consultations with the unions about the future of PHE, an executive agency of the Department of Health and Social Care. Unite strongly disputes media reports that the unions were consulted.
    Unite national officer for health Jackie Williams said: “It is clear that Public Health England and its dedicated staff are being lined up to be the fall guy for continual bungling by Boris Johnson and his ministers since coronavirus emerged at the beginning of the year.
    “The catalogue of errors ranges from the lateness to lockdown in March to the failure to have a so-called ‘world beating’ test-and-trace system in place by June.
    “In their desperation to find anyone or any organisation to blame for their own failings, Boris Johnson and health and social care secretary Matt Hancock are lining up the PHE and its staff to be the fall guy.
    “We think that the underlying agenda here is the future privatisation of PHE’s national infection service – the Tory government is obsessed with NHS privatisation which has been shown to be highly flawed and not a good use of taxpayers’ money.
    “We are calling for PHE to continue in its present role and allowed to do its vital work, rather than spend huge amounts of time, effort and money reorganising England’s public health structures in the middle of a global pandemic.
    “We are also calling for the swingeing cuts to its budget over recent years restored. The lack of consultation is both appalling and insulting.
    “PHE needs to have the resources to do the job it is designed to do, which is protecting the public health of the people in England, without inappropriate buck-passing political interference.”
    Shaun Noble
    Unite senior communications officer
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    A deserved boost in pay for NHS staff, who have battled through the pandemic, is ‘the elephant in the room’ in the latest plan for the health service in England, Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, said today (Thursday 30 July).
    Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock today welcomed the launch of the NHS People Plan as a new bureaucracy busting drive, so staff can spend less time on paperwork and more time with their patients.
     
    Unite, which has 100,000 members in the health service, said that the aims of this latest plan for the NHS would be hampered by the fragmentation caused by the 2012 Health and Social Care Act with its remit for increased competition for NHS services.
    Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said: “There have been a plethora of plans for the future of the NHS over the years and this latest manifestation neatly avoids ‘the elephant in the room’ – that of NHS pay.
    “NHS staff have worked ceaselessly throughout the pandemic at great risk to themselves and a generous pay rise would recognise that dedication as well as staunch the ‘recruitment and retention’ crisis that is currently afflicting the NHS – for example, there are about 40,000 nursing vacancies in England alone.
    “It is all very well for the plan to trumpet bureaucracy busting measures, but it was the flawed 2012 Act of the then health secretary Andrew Lansley that created the extra bureaucracy by fragmenting the NHS in the first place.
    “One of the key chapters of the People Plan is ‘belonging to the NHS’. This terms rings hollow to thousands of health visitors and school nurses cast outside the NHS; or the catering, cleaning, portering and maintenance staff that have been outsourced to private contractors or dispensed to wholly owned subsidiaries.
    “The English ideological obsession with marketisation and privatisation in the NHS must be terminated without delay and this report does nothing to address this.
    “We, of course, welcome such measures in the plan as boosting the mental health and cancer workforce; full risk assessments for vulnerable staff, including BAEM workers; and all jobs to be advertised with flexible working options from January.
    “But without addressing the issue of pay, highly skilled NHS staff will consider looking for more lucrative work elsewhere, possibly abroad.”
    Last week, chancellor Rishi Sunak awarded up to a 3.1 per cent pay rise for 900,000 public sector workers, including doctors, teachers and police officers. Unite accused the chancellor of having ‘a selective memory’ when it comes to public sector pay, rewarding some, but ignoring hundreds of thousands of others.

    Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble

    Comments Off on Pay is ‘elephant in the room’, says Unite, as new NHS England People Plan launched
    The damning report by MPs into hospital patients in England being discharged into care homes without a Covid-19 test reinforces the need for a public inquiry, sooner rather than later, into the government’s handling of the pandemic, Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, said today (Wednesday 29 July).
    The influential cross-party Public Accounts Committee (PAC) accused ministers of being slow to support social care during the crisis. The initial decision to allow untested patients into care homes was an ‘appalling error’.
    Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “The committee’s findings are a welcome first step, but MPs need to dig deeper into the long-standing crisis in social care.
    “Covid-19 has heightened attention on the underlying shortcomings in the social care system that have been building up for decades.
    “The pain and distress of families whose elderly relatives died in care homes because of the government’s flawed policy will be forever etched in the nation’s memory.
    “We need swift government action on the broken business model, so prevalent in the world of privatised care, with measures to tackle the underpayment of the workforce and, what Unite members tell us, measures to address the inadequate training they receive in such areas as infection control.
    “The social care sector is predicated on an environment of insecure work leading to multiple work placements.
    “The workforce needs job security, decent pay that recognises their skills and assurances on the basics, such as adequate PPE and sanitation provisions.
    “There also needs to be a safeguarding structure for workers disproportionately at risk, such as those from the BAEM communities.
    “Today, Unite repeats its call for a public inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic.
    “This inquiry should happen, sooner rather than later, as we suspect that Boris Johnson wants to play for time before such an inquiry is set-up as it will expose the lamentable failings of his government during this national emergency which has seen more than 45,000 lives lost to Covid-19.”
    The PAC said about 25,000 patients were discharged into care homes in England between mid-March and mid-April to free up hospital beds. After initially saying a negative result was not required before discharging patients, the government then said in mid-April all patients would be tested.

    Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble

    Comments Off on Unite renews call for pandemic public inquiry, following MPs’ report into untested patients discharged to care homes
    Unite NHS members will be at the forefront of a march to Downing Street tomorrow (Wednesday 29 July) to show their anger at being overlooked in the latest round of public sector pay rises – despite more than 500 NHS and social care staff dying from Covid-19.
    The Unite branch at Guy’s and St Thomas Hospital will be marching to Downing Street at 18.00 tomorrow from St Thomas Hospital, Westminster Bridge Road, SE1 7EH to protest at the government’s decision to put off a pay rise for NHS staff until April next year – when the three year pay deal comes to an end. The march will be attended and supported by NHS staff across London.
    Last week, chancellor Rishi Sunak awarded up to a 3.1 per cent pay rise for 900,000 public sector workers, including doctors, teachers and police officers. Unite accused the chancellor of having ‘a selective memory’ when it comes to public sector pay, rewarding some, but ignoring hundreds of thousands of others.
    Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said: “Nursing staff and other allied health professionals have reacted with anger to being overlooked when pay rises were given to many in the public sector last week and the government not hearing the health trade unions’ call to bring their pay rise forward from April 2021.
    “This sense of anger was heightened, especially in light of their work and sacrifices during the global pandemic which has taken the lives of more than 500 NHS and social care staff across the UK.
    “We are facing a perfect storm for recruitment and retention in the NHS – in a decade of Tory austerity, NHS staff have seen their pay cut by 20 per cent in real terms and many are considering leaving the health service; at the same time, there are about 40,000 nursing vacancies in England alone.
    “This crisis is also being exacerbated by the scrapping of the student bursary, which is putting off many who may have considered becoming one of the next generation of nurses.
    “What we have seen in the last few months is generous praise, warm words, and lots of Thursday evening clapping by ministers; yet we got a flavour of the government’s true feelings with Rishi Sunak’s lack of a pay announcement for NHS staff last week, with no statement dealing with our call to move the pay of NHS workers forward.
    “The public expects – and ministers should deliver – a substantial pay increase for NHS staff that reflects their real worth to the NHS and society more generally. NHS workers shouldn’t have to wait till April 2021.”
    Unite branch secretary at Guy’s and St Thomas Hospital Mark Boothroyd said: “We have called this demonstration to express the anger that so many of our members feel at the government’s derisory treatment of NHS staff.
    “After all our sacrifice during the pandemic, to exclude us from the pay deal and make us wait till April 2021 is a slap in the face, and our members are going to Downing Street to tell Boris Johnson this directly.”

     

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    The threat to cut health visitor and community nurse jobs in County Durham, while Covid-19 is still widespread, has been branded as ‘incomprehensible’ by Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, today (Friday 24 July).

    Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust (HDFT), which is taking over the County Durham 0-25 family health service contract from 1 September, wants to axe about 37 whole time equivalents (WTEs), while the coronavirus is still widespread across the country.

    Although the HDFT also says it wants to employ 21 WTE new posts, there will be a net loss of 16 WTEs out of a workforce of about 230 WTEs.

    Unite lead officer for health in the north east Chris Daly said: “It is almost incomprehensible that when ‘public health’ is foremost in people’s minds because of coronavirus, Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust is swinging the jobs axe.

    “The vast majority of those being earmarked to lose their jobs are health visitors and school nurses – the very professionals at the public health frontline helping families with babies and young children, and children returning to school.

    “Disgracefully, the trust is consulting when staff, have been working flat-out throughout the Covid-19 crisis supporting very stressed families and young people. This flawed exercise is happening before the first wave of the pandemic is over and with the expectation that a second wave will hit this autumn and winter.

    “It is also very wrong that schools and GPs have not been told about the proposed cuts in school nurses. School staff returning in September will be phoning school nurses to come and help with children that they have not seen since March and who may be exhibiting worrying behaviours and dealing with distressing emotions.

    “We believe that already stretched GPs will be expected to pick up the shortfall in keeping babies, children and young people safe. However, there is a real risk that those most at risk may fall through the current safety net that HDFT seems intent on weakening.

    “This is not the time to reduce the health and school nurse provision for children and young people. However, it will be some time before the adverse impact of these cuts are brought into sharp relief.

    “The Durham country council should work with the trust to increase the funding for these essential frontline services. The long-term health of families is never enhanced by reducing the number of healthcare professionals.”

    Unite, which embraces the Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association (CPHVA), will be making strong representations on behalf of its members before the consultation process ends on 31 July.

    Comments Off on Durham health visitor and school nurse job losses ‘incomprehensible’ with Covid-19 still prevalent, says Unite

    On Saturday July 4th, the day before the 72nd anniversary of the founding of the NHS – we demonstrated, jointly with Manchester Trade Union Council, with Unison, Unite and any other unions involved, with Keep Our NHS Public and with Health Campaigns Together (with PPE and social distancing) against the privatisation of the Department of Reproductive Medicine at St Mary’s Hospital Manchester.

    NEXT EVENT

    VIRTUAL PUBLIC MEETING: No privatisation of Manchester’s fertility service!
    Monday, 20 July 2020 from 19:00-20:30

    Details at the end of this article

    Women in the Labour Movement have been campaigning for at least 100 years on issues of maternal health and the right to choose whether and when to have children, and to use any technological advances that might make those choices easier, or even possible. From 1924 onwards the Women’s Labour League annually and unanimously supported birth control. The men in the Labour and Trade Union Movement were not always so unanimous, or so interested in the subject.

    In 1924 the first Labour Government was elected, and the League bombarded John Wheatley – the first Labour Minister of Health – with demands for improved health care in childbirth and after, and for the provision of free, state birth control clinics. They organised meetings and major demonstrations. They kept reminding him that giving birth had four times the death rate of working in the mines, the most dangerous job for men, and twenty times the likelihood of permanent disability.

    However, it was not until 1974 – another 50 years later – that women achieved the right to free contraception on the NHS, irrespective of age or marital status, by which time I had joined the Labour Party and it was one of the issues I was campaigning for myself, first through the Young Socialists and then the Labour Women’s organisation . Nowadays, men can also get free vasectomies  and, whether for contraception or protection against HIV, free condoms on the NHS, also irrespective of age. None of these successes, in areas where some people like to make moral rather than medical judgements, was easy or straightforward.

    For example, even after the beginning of the decriminalisation of homosexuality for men in 1967, homophobia was still rampant for many years. Thus, more than 20 years later in 1988, Thatcher was able to introduce Clause 28. Roy Trevelion (London SHA member) in Age UK’s Opening Doors London, likens the mental health of many HIV positive men – as a consequence of the AIDS epidemic and ongoing homophobia – to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Most gay men who obtained free condoms would have been more likely to get them from organisations like the Lesbian and Gay Foundation in Manchester (and similar ones elsewhere), which is registered as a charity and raised money to provide them on that basis. Many gay men would have been more able and less anxious to get their condoms from peer-support charities like this than to risk accidentally outing themselves at the doctor’s or clinic.

    The post World War II economic boom brought rising employment of women and improved living standards, and with increased confidence, women demanded recognition for their contribution to society and the right to control their own lives. These led to the Abortion Act 1967 as well as to Equal Pay (1970) and Sex Discrimination (1975) legislation, and the right to paid maternity leave (1975). The Abortion Act did not give women the right to choose, but made it legal for abortions to be carried out with the approval of two doctors under certain circumstances. In effect it decriminalised what women had been doing for centuries, just as the 1967 Sexual Offences Act (partially) decriminalised homosexual acts between men.

    Making abortion illegal in 1861 had not stopped it, and the 1967 Act did not encourage it: it just made the difference between a woman dying as a consequence, or surviving. (In Romania, abortion was illegal until 1989: but abortions still outnumbered live births – in 1987 by four to one.) I remember providing accommodation to Spanish women coming to the UK for abortions before 1985, when it became legal in Spain, and from the Republic of Ireland before the end of 2018 when it was legalised there.

    However, the 1967 Abortion Act, like the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, was not the end of the matter. There were several attempts to repeal or considerably amend the Abortion Act, such as the White Bill, the Corrie Bill and the Alton Bill, which gave rise in turn to their own protest movements. A very large demonstration against the Corrie Bill was called by the TUC (on the initiative of the Women’s TUC) in 1980, the first time in the world that a major trade union federation had called a demonstration on abortion rights; and another against the Alton Bill in 1988, again with the support of the trade union movement. None of these Private Member’s Bills was successful, but in the end the period during which abortion could be legally carried out was reduced to 24 weeks in 1990, by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act.

    The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act, based on the recommendations of the Committee of the same name, chaired by Mary Warnock, was passed in 1990. When it was originally passed it allowed access to infertility treatment, such as Artificial Insemination or In Vitro Fertilisation, at a cost (in money and patience, especially with IVF) but it also required the women who wanted medical assistance to become mothers, to conform to a very traditional view of motherhood and the family, as reflected in the attitudes of doctors, hospital ethical committees and the Warnock Committee at that time, and laid down in Codes of Practice. These were not medical decisions but social and moral ones.

    For example, to be “suitable” for treatment, a woman had to be living in a stable relationship with a man, and usually had to be able-bodied. Some clinics were reluctant to treat couples where the man was not in work, or the woman not prepared to give up work. Single women and lesbian couples were not usually eligible.  Tory MP David Wilshire made it clear in his speech that he was particularly concerned that “assisted conception” would not produce families dependent on the state, and another amendment was passed to include “the need of a child for a father”.

    Why is Reproductive Technology a Political Issue?

    Thirty years ago I wrote those words in a book called “Whose Choice?”, published at the time of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill which became law in 1990. The question was why the Labour Movement should take up issues such as contraception, abortion and treatment of infertility, which were often seen as purely personal matters.

    My answer, on behalf of the (then) Manchester and Liverpool Labour Women’s Councils, was that it was our belief that decisions about whether or not to have children, how many to have, whether or not to have an abortion or use any of the technologies available to overcome or by-pass infertility, or to avoid having a child with disabilities, or to enable those of us who were lesbians to become parents, were all personal decisions to be taken by the individuals concerned, and not by the Church, the State or the Medical Profession.

    And since it is women who give birth to children and even now usually bear the main responsibility for child rearing, these decisions must primarily be theirs. As socialists we argue for women to have the maximum choice possible in the decisions that shape their lives.

    The campaign then – and still is now – was not just for legal rights, but for the practical means to realise them. In order for a working class woman to have the choices already available to richer women, she must have the economic means (a living wage or income), and necessary social arrangements, such as childcare and decent housing, so that she can choose to have a child. It means expanding the NHS, taking back control of the services that have been contracted out to the private sector, resisting any further attempts to privatise parts of the NHS, and running the NHS democratically so that women can have access to free and safe abortion, contraception, artificial insemination and IVF treatment.

    It means carrying out the research to find contraceptives that meet the needs identified by both women and men; research to enable women to have earlier abortions and make them safer; research into causes of infertility and its prevention; research into chromosomal and genetic disorders and their prevention; and research into products and services that would improve the lives of disabled people.

    All these things are entirely reasonable and technically possible; but they raise, in turn, important – essentially political – questions. Who does the research and in whose interests? The rubber goods manufacturers (for decades before the 1960s, clandestine or even illegal): the vulcanisation of rubber revolutionised birth control as well as road transport; but  nowadays research is dominated by the pharmaceutical industry. And of course the research is done to make a profit.

    The drug industry is one of the most research-intensive sectors: but it spends more on marketing and advertising than on research. That was the case when the last official UK Government report on the industry was published (The Sainsbury Report, HMSO, 1967) and it was even more the case, according to the most recent figures (OECD Main Science and Technology Indicators, annual, covering all OECD member countries in the year of publication.)

    Pressure to be first to market can lead to corner-cutting in testing: the most notorious case where this happened was Thalidomide, a tranquilliser that had been declared safe, and was explicitly prescribed, for pregnant women. But it caused major deformities in their babies who were, most notably, born either without some or all of their limbs or with major deformities in them.

    Although it was known by then that some drugs could cause foetal damage, it was not yet specifically a legal requirement to test for them, and the tests were not done. (Only the USA’s Food and Drug Adminstration refused to grant a licence for thalidomide to be prescribed, because the FDA official responsible insisted on having evidence on the foetal effects of the drug, which were not available.) Criticism of government “interference” in the affairs of business is very common in the United States (often framed as interference in the public’s right to choose – except women’s right to choose abortion). Today the FDA is still the butt of criticism of lack of freedom from government interference.

    The Warnock Report, on which the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill was based, commented on the lack of research into causes of infertility. This is still the case to some extent, though knowledge in this area has been increasing since the discussions around the Warnock Report and the debates on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill.

    But we can be sure that thorough studies, once publicised and popularised, will lead to increased demands for improved health and safety at work; and for the replacement of industrial processes, chemicals and other materials causing infertility; and that responding to these demands would threaten profits. A thorough study would also raise questions about the under-funding of the NHS and the number of diseases that are not adequately diagnosed, or possibly not adequately treated, and which lead to infertility.

    The issue of women’s rights in reproduction is therefore a political and class question: not just because it is mainly working class women and men who are affected by lack of choice and unsafe working conditions, but also because the ability of all women to have a real choice will only be possible as a result of the struggle of working class women and men to change society. This means campaigning on reproductive rights as well as on better housing, higher wages and defence of the NHS. It especially means we must control the resources of society and organise them for need rather than profit.

    St Mary’s Department of Reproductive Medicine (DRM) – Summary of Background Briefing

    St Saint Mary’s Hospital, Manchester, was founded in 1790. Today it provides a wide range of medical services, mainly for women, babies and children. It is highly regarded for teaching and research, and has an internationally recognised Genomics Centre and Department of Reproductive Medicine (DRM). The DRM employs 70 staff and delivers clinical, laboratory and counselling services for about 3000 patients a year. Most of St Mary’s services and research activity is carried out in a building dating from the late 1960s. In 2009 paediatric services were transferred to the newly built Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital on the same site.

    The issue at the centre of the protest is that the DRM is housed in the Old St Mary’s Building (also on the same site) which dates from just after the death of Queen Victoria, and is in desperate need of repair. Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT) believes that relocation of DRM within the Trust could cost up to £10 million just in capital expenditure, and is talking about privatisation.

    DRM offers a fertility assessment and infertility service. Artificial Insemination and IVF are offered to women who may benefit, on referral by a GP. This can be both NHS funded and private – the latter for women for whom it is clinically appropriate but whose CCG would not fund the necessary cycles of treatment. It offers a fertility preservation service for patients who wish to preserve eggs or sperm while having medical treatment – eg for cancer – that might affect future fertility. DRM offers sperm-testing and specialist treatment for patients whose sperm has been identified as presenting fertility issues; and on the other hand post-vasectomy checks.

    An anonymous or by-arrangement sperm-donation service is also offered to lesbians, and to heterosexual women either without a partner or who cannot conceive with their partner’s sperm for any reason. The Department also offers a reproductive endocrinology service which focuses on the way in which hormones affect fertility; and specialist counselling to any of the patients using their services. DRM runs the national proficiency scheme involving distribution to other reproductive medicine labs across the country and checks that the results are consistent. Finally, the Department makes a significant contribution to fertility research in conjunction with the University of Manchester.

    In early March the Trust briefed all service staff that they would undertake a 12 month options appraisal exercise to identify whether the service should remain within the Trust or be re-commissioned elsewhere. (Since the pandemic this has been put back.) The unions argue:

    • that there would be significant capital costs involved in privatising the service, which would have to be borne by the hospital (eg to store embryos – the store would need to remain on the site and continue to be run, inspected and managed by MFT, because the cost of doing otherwise would be prohibitive).
    • that the service is unique in Greater Manchester, and to a large extent in the entire North West Region.
    • It has significant associated capital and operational costs so other NHS trusts are likely to be reluctant to bid to host the service.
    • The private sector may offer an option that appears to be cheaper, but offers a far lower level of service than that currently provided at St Mary’s – but the NHS might be obliged to accept the private bid, because it is lower.

    The unions are also concerned about the impact of any potential future privatisation of the service for many reasons, including:

    • St Mary’s offers specialist care to a number of people with Protected Characteristics under the Equality Act 2010, which might not be available under private sector provision.
    • The services offered by St Mary’s are highly specialised – Trafford CCG ring-fenced them on behalf of all the CCGs in Greater Manchester, not requiring them to participate in an IVF procurement exercise in 2019 for this reason.
    • The andrology service works with eg men with Cystic Fibrosis who are often infertile and need surgery if they wish to have a chance of creating a family, and another specialist service involving the only UK-based partnership with the long established FAIRFAX cryo-spermbank.
    • The National External Quality Assessment Scheme for reproductive medicine is currently based in the DRM laboratories. If DRM was closed or moved, this would need a new home, too.
    • The kind of research investment and relationship with academic institutions that St Mary’s has would not be replicated in private sector provision where profits have to be made.
    • Despite assurances from MFT, the unions believe that the terms and conditions of the staff in the private sector, if they had to move and could do so, would not be as good as those in the NHS under the Agenda for Change national pay system.
    • In other areas where NHS services have been privatised, there has often been an erosion of terms and conditions, and of collective bargaining, either through attrition over time or an aggressive stance by employers. Unions believe that this is a significant risk.
    • The cost to fee-paying patients is less than the alternative provision in the private sector, and for NHS patients, the NHS pays via CCGs around £4000 per IVF cycle at St Mary’s, but significantly more (£5-6,000) to private providers per cycle.
    • The DRM is part of St Mary’s and both are located on the MFT Oxford Road Campus next to the University of Manchester. Patients with co-morbidities and other conditions which may have an impact on their fertility and associated treatments, can benefit from the expertise and clinical care available within MFT close to their fertility treatment. At the same time, staff can benefit from the close proximity of other specialisms which may be relevant to a patient’s ongoing care.

    The Next Stage in the Campaign to Save St Mary’s

    There will be a public meeting (via internet) hosted by Keep Our NHS Public as below. Please join us via Greater Manchester Keep Our NHS Public (GM KONP)’s Facebook page.

    PUBLIC MEETING: No privatisation of Manchester’s fertility service!
    Monday, 20 July 2020 from 19:00-20:30

    https://www.facebook.com/events/280845443022548/

    The fertility service provided by the Department of Reproductive Medicine at St Mary’s hospital, Manchester, faces privatisation. According to reports, Manchester Foundation Trust announced earlier this year that the service would go over to a private company in 2021. This would be a disaster for the service and future patients.

    Now the Trust has begun an “options appraisal” over the future of the service. We insist that the #1 option must be keeping it public and keeping it where it is. We demand a public consultation so the people of Manchester have their say.

    Join our online public meeting to hear about the situation and how we can campaign to win. There will be discussion after the speakers, who are:

    Denise Andrews, Unison union rep, DRM
    Liz Holland, Unite the Union branch secretary, MFT
    James Bull, Unison union regional officer

    Pia Feig, a feminist perspective
    Chaired by Caroline Bedale, Greater Manchester Keep Our NHS Public and Greater Manchester Socialist Health Association.

    This will be a Facebook Live event broadcast through the event page.

    Mailing address for

    Keep Our NHS Public Greater Manchester

    c/o KONP national, Unit 12-13 Springfield House 5 Tyssen Street

    LondonE8 2LY

    United Kingdom

    Vivien Walsh (Greater Manchester SHA)

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    Class and race are the biggest factors in determining those that have died or been taken ill by Covid-19, Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, said today (Tuesday 2 June).

    Unite called for a raft of policies to tackle the ‘systemic failures’ that has led to the disproportionate death toll amongst the Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities and also the poorest groups in society

    The union was commenting on Public Health England’s report Disparities in the risk and outcomes of Covid-19 which highlighted those groups that had been hardest hit in terms of mortality due to coronavirus.

    Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “This report shines a searing light that reveals the pandemic in the UK is intrinsically linked disproportionately to class and race.

    “These wide disparities are detailed in this data and point to age, race and income and accompanying health inequalities as key determinants as to whom has been the worst affected by Covid-19.

    “This has been amplified among those in undervalued occupations and jobs where zero hours’ contracts and precarious employment are the norm.

    “Working hard to provide for your families is no defence against Covid-19 for these groups – these systemic failures need to be tackled urgently and that work should start now.

    “No one policy size fits all, but such an agenda should include ethnically sensitive risk assessments and income guarantees for workers who through ‘test, track and trace’ would otherwise be reliant on statutory sick pay (SSP), while in isolation.

    “The Real Living Wage should be the basic minimum for those in ‘at risk’ occupations as an interim measure, with a commitment to sectoral bargaining for care workers and the guarantee of the necessary funding.

    “All these measures are achievable with government support. If austerity is over, as ministers claim, the best defence against the inequalities which the report exposes is to narrow the income gap and invest in public services with priority to social care.

    “The pandemic has shown that the crisis in social care can no long be pushed into the political long grass. The lack of testing for residents and staff, and also the shortage of PPE, in care homes has wreaked a terrible toll on the elderly who have died in their thousands due to Covid-19.

    “Social care can no longer be regarded as the poor relation when it comes to funding from the budgets of central and local government – a ministerial blueprint for social care should be a top priority as we emerge from the lockdown.

    “Poverty is the parent of disease and Covid-19 has been a willing accomplice in this respect. Once this pandemic has passed, we need to look as a country anew to how we can recalibrate economic and social policies to create a fairer society.

    “All these issues must be investigated in depth when the post-pandemic public inquiry takes place, which will be needed in the interests of accountability, openness and transparency.”

    The PHE report said that those parts of UK society most affected included the elderly; Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) populations generally and those BAME NHS staff on the frontline in particular; those with underlying conditions, such as diabetes and dementia; those living in care homes; and those from deprived communities.

    Twitter: @unitetheunion

    Facebook: unitetheunion1

    Web: unitetheunion.org

    Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.

     

     

    1 Comment
    Thousands of social care staff in England could be falling through the net when it comes to the provision of the £60,000 payment in the event of death due to Covid-19.
    Serious concern was expressed today (Friday 22 May) by Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, which has combed through the small print as to who the payment applies to.
    According to the government document, Coronavirus Life Assurance Scheme – Death in Service (England only): ‘Any employee who works for a private social care organisation which receives no public funding’ is not eligible for the payment.
    Unite called on health and social care secretary Matt Hancock to clarify and rectify the situation as a matter of urgency, given that more than 300 NHS and social care workers have now died as a result of Covid-19.
    Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “Matt Hancock needs to clarify what the small print actually means, as it is totally unacceptable that possibly thousands of social care workers are barred from this scheme because their place of work has no public funding.
    “We can’t have this two-tier situation where one care worker’s contribution, fighting coronavirus, is regarded of less value than another in a different setting. If you are risking your life in the battle against Covid-19, your workplace and how it is funded are irrelevant.
    “We don’t know the true scale of the problem across England – it could be that thousands of care workers are being denied this cover – but if it is only one, it is one too many.
    “Unfortunately, the health trade unions have not been consulted in drawing up this eligibility criteria in England – if we had been, we would have objected in the strongest possible terms to what is now in place.
    “The government has shown that it is capable of righting a wrong, as was proved yesterday with the U-turn on the £400 charge for NHS migrant workers. This is another case where a ministerial rethink is in order.”
    Last month, Matt Hancock announced that families of NHS and social care workers, who have died after contracting coronavirus in the course of their duties, will receive a £60,000 payment from the taxpayer.
     
    Twitter: @unitetheunion Facebook: unitetheunion1 Web: unitetheunion.org
    Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.

     

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    Boris Johnson’s hardline stance not to waive the £400 NHS surcharge for overseas health and social care workers combating coronavirus was described as ‘mean-spirited and shabby’ today (Thursday 21 May) by Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union.
    Unite, which has 100,000 members in the health service, said the hypocrisy of the prime minister was given extra piquancy as he singled out two non-UK  nurses – one from New Zealand and the other from Portugal – for praise after he survived his fight with Covid-19.
    The NHS fee of £400-a-year for care workers applies to those from outside the European Economic Area, regardless whether they use the NHS or not. It is set to rise to £624 in October.
    There is also controversy over the £900m figure which the prime minister told MPs is raised by this charge. The Institute of Fiscal Studies put the sum at a tenth of that – £90 million.
    Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe  said: “Of all people, Boris Johnson should appreciate the wonderful and dedicated work of NHS health and social care professions, including the two non-UK nurses he singled out for particular praise in his fight for survival against coronavirus.
    “Therefore, the fact he won’t waive this £400 fee for overseas health and social care workers is mean-spirited and shabby.
    “With this prime minister warm words of praise come cheap, but a small financial gesture for NHS migrant workers, many of them low-paid, is beyond his compass. His stance is hypocritical.
    “Tonight, we will have the Thursday ‘clap for carers by the people of the UK, many of them who voted for Boris Johnson as recently as last December – there is a big irony here. This charge should be waived immediate.”:
     
    Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble
    Twitter: @unitetheunion Facebook: unitetheunion1 Web: unitetheunion.org
    Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.

     

    1 Comment

    The nine-point blueprint by 16 health unions for reopening the NHS should act as ‘a rocket booster’ for ministers to tackle the lack of PPE and the shambolic testing regime, Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, said today (Friday 15 May).

    Unite, which has 100,000 members in the health service, is one of the 16 unions that has contributed to the blueprint designed to make the NHS the safest possible environment for patients, staff and visitors as the lockdown is eased by the government, and out-patient clinics and operations resume.

    Unite said that the three key issues that needed to be addressed urgently were the continuing lack of PPE; the ‘messy’ testing regime which has seen samples sent to the USA; and the withdrawal of the threat that NHS staff could be subject to a public sector pay freeze highlighted in leaked Treasury documents.

    Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said: “This blueprint by the health unions should act as a rocket booster for ministers to really get to grips with key elements of the pandemic.

    “A continuing shortage of PPE is a dark stain on the government’s response to the coronavirus emergency. We have ambulance, biomedical scientist, nursing and speech and language therapist (SALT) members telling us that there are still shortages and, in some cases, when it does arrive it is out-of-date, ill-fitting or not up to standard.

    “We have feedback from our members that they are being leaned on by NHS bosses not to raise the PPE shortages – but Unite urges them to #staysafenot silent and to #telluswhatPPEyouneed.

    “And we will back you to the hilt in raising these legitimate concerns that are of the highest public interest.

    “The testing regime totters between the shambolic and the messy. There is little openness and transparency about how the government will hit its increased 200,000 daily test target.

    “We have thousands of healthcare science members who could be used to better effect and engaged more substantively, so we can avoid the situation where samples are sent to America for analysis.

    “It appears that the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing as the ‘test, track and trace’ initiative struggles to get off the ground in a meaningful way.

    “Finally, our members are furious at the leaked Treasury assessment that a public sector pay freeze could be on the cards to pay for the cost of the pandemic. If the Thursday ‘clap for carers’ means anything, it should be that there can be no return to the age of austerity.

    “More than 270 NHS and social care workers have died due to Covid-19 and hundreds of thousands more are risking their lives on a daily basis to care for others – yet this does not seem to stop Treasury mandarins drawing up heartless proposals to freeze public sector pay, which a recent Unite survey has shown the public does not want.”

    The unions’ blueprint includes fast, comprehensive and accessible testing, and the ongoing, ample supply of protective kit, as well as calls for staff to be paid properly for every hour worked.

    Notes

    The NHS unions are: British Association of Occupational Therapists, British Dental Association, British Dietetic Association, British Orthoptists Society, Chartered Society of Physiotherapists, College of Podiatry, Federation of Clinical Scientists, GMB, Healthcare Consultants and Specialists Association, Managers in Partnership, Prison Officers Association, Royal College of Midwives, Royal College of Nursing, Society of Radiographers, UNISON and Unite.

    The final text of the blueprint is here

    Unions have been asking the government to fund a consistent approach to overtime across the whole NHS. They are currently awaiting government sign off on a joint proposal from employers and unions.

    The 16 unions represent health workers covering the whole of the UK. There may be issues specific to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland that can be taken up with the employer/union structures of those administrations.

    Twitter: @unitetheunion Facebook: unitetheunion1 Web: unitetheunion.org

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