DOCTORS IN UNITE PROTEST OUTSIDE DEPT OF HEALTH 27 JULY 2021 AGAINST INADEQUATE PPE FOR HEALTH AND SOCIAL CARE WORKERS

DiU were joined by a number of organisations on our demonstration to demand protection from airborne transmission for all HCWs. We also received a number of messages of support, including from Diane Abbott MP, the Hazards Campaign, Every Doctor, Prof Trish Greenhalgh, Unite health branch in Nottinghamshire and Prof Raymond Agius. Photos of the protest appear below followed by the messages of support.

Statement from Janet Newsham, Chair of UK Hazards Campaign

The hazards campaign supports those organising and campaigning for justice and safety at work.

UK Hazards Campaign and all its supporters send solidarity greeting to the Doctors in Unite demonstration taking place outside the Dept of Health in London at the same time as our protest outside the HSE in Bootle in the North West England.  We agree that the HSE has a legal duty to ensure safe working conditions for all workers, in our hospitals and clinics and across businesses and industry. 

Throughout the pandemic, the HSE has failed to ensure that employers in all settings are controlling the infection risks to their staff through their duty to provide suitable and sufficient risk assessments. 

They have reacted too late leaving hundreds of thousands of workers infected, thousands left with long-covid and some have sadly died.  We know that PPE is the last resort in the defence from an airborne disease and that before it is considered all other safety measure must be put in place to remove the risks, however if PPE is necessary then we expect high quality respirator face masks at a precautionary standard are provided. 

We accuse the HSE of being complicit with Government in not ensuring that workers have been provided with these, including in high risk health and social care settings. 

Employers, enforcement authorities and the government are responsibility for thousands of needless deaths of workers all over the country by failing to ensure proper air quality in the workplace. 

The UK Hazards Campaign will remember all those who have died but we will continue to fight like hell for the living!

We wish you every success on Tuesday and look forward to continue working together in the future.  Airborne protection NOW for all workers!

Janet Newsham – Chair of UK Hazards Campaign

Statement by Dr Julia Grace-Patterson, Chief Executive, Every Doctor

16 months after the World Health Organisation declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, and where are we? Still trying to get NHS workers the protection they need to stay safe.

Those early months of the pandemic were chaotic. Some NHS staff were given out-of-date PPE, others had none at all. Thousands of health and social care workers were left at risk; and carried this risk to their patients and their families.

Over a year on, 1,500 health and social care workers have died from COVID-19. At least 122,000 more are suffering from long COVID. And yet NHS workers are still waiting.

This government claims to ‘follow the science’. Well the ‘science’ now is very clear. COVID-19 is an airborne virus. And FFP3 respirator masks are the safest PPE we can give healthcare workers. And by protecting NHS workers, we not only protect these individuals; we also protect their families and loved ones, and their patients too.

All health and social care staff should have access to them – no exceptions, no excuses. 

We heard horrifying stories from our community of frontline doctors last year about makeshift PPE. Of staff in GP surgeries and hospitals having to craft their own gowns and masks out of bin bags and sanitary towels, or having to rely on generous donations from local businesses.

Where was the government?

Awarding PPE contracts to companies that were completely unfit, without any transparency or competition, and some of whom had no experience at all in supplying medical equipment.

Alongside Good Law Project, we took the government to court over these shoddy PPE deals. We’re still waiting to hear the verdict, but for EveryDoctor these cases weren’t so much about the judicial outcome itself, but to recognise the sacrifices every one of our colleagues have made in the last year.

One legal victory is never going to solve everything. Our fight to Protect NHS workers is far from over. After 18 months fighting this virus, NHS workers still don’t have the protection they need.

We know that COVID-19 is an airborne virus. But right now the majority of frontline health and social workers are still not being given respirator masks. Government guidelines are still recommending basic surgical masks for the majority of workers.

No amount of clapping or empty words can take away the fears our NHS colleagues still feel when being forced to work in unsafe environments. No one should be forced to work like this, but especially not those who have given their all to care for us throughout this pandemic.

That’s why we’re proud to support this protest today.

Dr. Julia Patterson

Chief Executive, EveryDoctor

Statement from Diane Abbott MP

“I am sorry I cannot be here with you today. But I want to say firstly thank you for all you and your colleagues do and have done throughout this pandemic. 

But I am sorry you have been asked to do it. It is the government’s responsibility that you came into this pandemic completely understaffed and underpaid.  It was the government which didn’t provide PPE, including the saintly Jeremy Hunt as Health Secretary. It was also the government which has allowed so many of you to become ill and die as a result of this virus. 

It didn’t have to be this way.  In New Zealand and China currently have 40 cases between them, and have had no deaths in months.  ZeroCovid is possible. None of this needed to happen.

If £37bn can be wasted on a useless Test & Trace system, why can’t you get a 15% pay rise?  If money can be found for renewing Trident, why can’t you all have proper PPE? And if the government is hiring consultants on £1,000 a day, why can’t they hire more doctors and NHS workers? If the NHS vaccine programme is great, why are they intent on privatising the NHS?

Instead, they let Black and Asian people die in huge numbers, while demonising their communities and denying that racism exists. 

They must be challenged. They must be opposed, so I am glad that you are doing this today.”

Statement from Trish Greenhalgh, doctor and Professor of Primary Care Health Sciences, University of Oxford

This is a shortened version of a video statement by Prof Greenhalgh, which can be seen here https://www.dropbox.com/t/hutkC5mWxinVbx1b

“At the beginning of the pandemic we thought the virus was spread by large droplets and from surfaces.  We now know, beyond any real doubt, that the virus is airborne, and that makes it that much harder to protect against it.  But it also means that this old classification of aerosol generating procedures, for which you would be given higher grade protection, doesn’t really apply.  Because anybody who is look after somebody who has got Covid or might have Covid, really needs to be protected with a level of PPE which protects them against airborne infection, which means a higher grade respirator mask in particular, together with other precautions.

I’ve been working with the Royal College of Nursing, Unite the Union, and many other health and care unions and we’ve been trying to get the rules changed to protect health and care workers, many hundreds of whom have already died from Covid-19.  We shouldn’t be putting our front-line key health workers at this risk.

Please support the demonstration organised by Doctors in Unite outside the Dept of Health on 27th July, if you feel strongly about this issue, as I do.  Lets hope this is a successful protest and that it changes policy, so that front-line workers are better protected.

Thanks very much and good luck to all the protestors on the day.”

Statement from Jon Dale, Unite Nottinghamshire Health branch

Unite Nottinghamshire Health branch congratulates Doctors in Unite for organising this demonstration. We send our solidarity and full support in the campaign for safe workplaces for all.

NHS workers should decide what PPE is required – not government ministers or cash-strapped management. Safe workplaces need enough workers to do the job – not a skeleton staff working exhaustingly long hours.

The campaign for proper PPE is linked to the campaign for a fully funded 15% pay rise. With united trade union action and solidarity, NHS workers can win and inspire all workers to fight for workplace safety and decent pay.

Jon Dale

Secretary

Statement from Professor Raymond Agius, doctor and Emeritus Professor Occupational and Environmental Medicine

Prof Agius has worked tirelessly to publicise the failure of the government and the HSE to protect people in the workplace from Covid-19

“Sorry I can’t join you in London. Because of my age and gender, I don’t fancy travelling from Manchester by train and then on the tube, especially since the ex-mayor of London has decided to grant the ‘freedom’ of the city to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

However, I have been looking after the health at work of health care workers since 1986 and have been campaigning since March 2020 for them to be provided with FFP3 and other protection against Covid, since #COVIDisAirborne.

So what you are doing today has my wholehearted support.

Best wishes,

Raymond”

Medical Education must be accessible to all who are suitable to become doctors

For too long training to be a doctor has been the preserve of those from more affluent backgrounds with a more privileged schooling, more likely to achieve the A level grades required, write a good personal statement, have access to relevant work experience or internships, to perform well at interview and to receive financial support from their families. This has meant that doctors are not representative of society and are often ill equipped to appreciate cultural differences.

Good A level grades, personal statements written with intensive support and a slick interview technique do not necessarily predict who will become a good doctor and serve their patients well.

Fear of the debt incurred while training to be a doctor is a huge disincentive to application and once qualified may send some doctors into the arms of the private sector, robbing the NHS of valuable workforce.

Many young people who would make excellent doctors are excluded from medical education due to discrimination.

The Race Inequalities Commission in Tower Hamlets has shown that even in areas, such as Inner London, where comprehensive education is good and less privileged students achieve high grades at A level, they are far less likely to be able to progress to higher education and beyond.

https://www.towerhamlets.gov.uk/lgnl/community_and_living/Inequality-Commission/Black-Asian-and-Minority-Ethnic-Inequalities-Commission.aspx

Racism is a well evidenced source of discrimination against entry to medical school. https://www.bmj.com/content/317/7166/1111

Covid has shown how understaffed the NHS is with respect not just to doctors but to nurses and all health professionals. Workforce planning is too interlinked with the short-term electoral cycle and does not meet the needs of the NHS and the patients it serves.

Governments try to cut costs by creating lesser paid workforces such as Physicians Associates, or diverting patients to existing health professionals who are not trained to deal with their problems, such as pharmacists and paramedics. Alternatively, they propose medical apprenticeship schemes for which the funding is unclear and which could lead to a hierarchy of medical degrees with these “second class” doctors sent to under-doctored areas and unable to get onto the more prestigious post graduate rotations, perpetuating inequality.

UK Government cuts the costs of training by poaching health professionals trained in other countries. We are in support of opportunities to work abroad and the sharing of ideas and cultures enriches us but this exodus poses a particular problem for the third world who lose very valuable personnel.

Training of health professionals is too segregated into unhelpful silos. Many tasks are carried out across professional boundaries.

Medical schools are vastly oversubscribed, there is plenty of opportunity to train more doctors.

Doctors in Unite demand:

Free medical education with the abolition of tuition fees and proper cost of living grants to allow young people from all backgrounds to access places at medical school.

Racism in the selection process is particularly pernicious and must be robustly challenged.

Pre-clinical courses should be set up which act as a gateway to young people from less privileged backgrounds into medical school.

Medical Apprenticeships could be an entry point to traditional medical education for young people from less privileged backgrounds in a similar way to pre-clinical courses, but must not be allowed to perpetuate inequality and lead to a tier of “second class doctors.”

There must be proper, long term workforce planning removed from the short termism of the electoral cycle. An independent commission should be set up which looks at need across the country and sufficient numbers of health care professionals must be trained.

Health professionals from abroad are welcome but there must be recompense to their countries of origin.

Barriers between professions should be flexible giving Physicians Associates, nurses, paramedics and pharmacists an entry into medical education to train to be doctors should they so wish.

We support graduate level entry into medical school, especially as this may allow young people who did not acquire the necessary A level grades to access straight from school. We acknowledge that funding would be an issue for many young people under the current system and would support the introduction of bursaries for this level of entry.

There should be core joint education with multidisciplinary training where appropriate to share skills, break down barriers and encourage teamwork.  

Decisions on access to medical school must involve some democratic, community input to ensure that doctors represent the communities that they will serve.

unite legal support

In terms of legal representation, DiU members receive this in the same way as all other Unite the Union members do for employment related matters (this includes members employed by GP’s practices). A DiU member should inform their Unite District or Regional Office via their workplace representative, where they have one, to follow the process of applying for legal assistance for an employment related matter.  There is a form to complete and the relevant information and evidence would need to submitted to allow us to assess what sort of legal advice is necessary. 

Legal advice does not necessary mean representation and there needs to be an assessment of this to determine if the union will provide legal representation at an employment tribunal, so the correct deadlines need to be adhered to.  In some cases there may not be a Unite representative in the workplace though, so support would be provided by the appropriate Regional Officer or Accredited Workplace companion.

Members should approach their Regional or District Officer if they have an employment or profession related issue which may require legal advice and the Regional Officer will be able to advise on the appropriate course of action. Individual circumstances will determine when legal advice is necessary, but as a trade union, our emphasis is to resolve matters in the workplace rather than through the courts, though we know sometimes this is necessary. 

There is a qualifying period for Unite members to receive legal support for employment related matters, this is usually 30 days of membership and the matter should not predate membership. In addition, we provide support to members that face industrial and occupational injury at work.  This is available to DIU and Unite the Union members from day one of membership and related to accidents at work or away from work. 

For more information contact your Regional or District office on call the legal support helpline on 0800 709 007 or check out the website. For non-employment related matters (including non-employment related issues concerned with HEE and the BMA), Unite has a 24 hour legal helpline  0800 709 007 to support member on any non-employment matter. Through our legal services package, Unite members are entitled to free initial legal advice on any matter which is non-work related from a Unite solicitor. This service entitles you to receive a 30-minute phone consultation with a solicitor, free of charge.   Do check out the for 24 hour non employment legal services website for this.  As DiU is part of Unite the Union, members are already part of a trade union.

A Letter from Gaza: “This Must End”

Dr. Yasser Abu Jamei is a psychiatrist living and working in Gaza, and is Director of the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, a leading mental health provider in Palestine. He was the keynote speaker at our AGM on 7th February this year. He wrote this letter on 13 May 2021.

“I am writing this letter looking at my terrified 6-year old son, who keeps putting his hands over his ears trying block the sounds of Israel’s bombardment, my two daughters, aged 13 and 10, and my wife. These faces show the anxiety of not knowing where they can be safe now. My two older sons, 16 and 15, sit stunned and silent and I know they are reliving the memories of the previous three offensives on Gaza Strip and the family members we lost. These are the feelings that every family in the Gaza Strip are living through.

We Palestinians have lived decades of humiliation, injustices, and maltreatment. In 1948, we were expelled from our land; over 600 villages were fully destroyed, hundreds of thousands of us were killed or uprooted. Nearly eight hundred thousand ended up living as refugees in different places around the globe.

This happened under the eyes of the International Community, who have promised us a sovereign State over about one fifth of our original homeland. That decision was only accepted in the 1990s by Palestinians believing in a two-state solution.

Twenty-six years later, we look at the conditions in the promised State of Palestine and we see a West Bank divided and occupied by hundreds of thousands of settlers living in settlements built on the rubble of Palestinian homes, and who are making the lives of the Palestinian people living hell.

We see the Gaza Strip under blockade for more than 14 years, leaving us deprived of basic living conditions. Not only that, but having suffered three large offensives in this small area which killed, destroyed and traumatized thousands of our people.

And we see East Jerusalem, with its holiest sites for Muslims and Christians alike continuing to be under constant threat as settlers take over Palestinian homes and neighborhoods.

A week ago, Israeli settlers started to attack Sheikh Jarrah trying to seize more homes of Palestinian families. Everyone saw it. No one intervened.

In one of the holiest Ramadan evenings, Israel decided to evict tens of thousands of worshipers who were just praying at Al-Aqsa. These were mostly Palestinians who live in Palestine ‘48 – now Israel. Everyone saw the brutal use of military power by Israel. No one intervened.

The violent scenes in Sheikh Jarrah and the Al-Aqsa compound have lit a fire in Palestinian hearts not only in historic Palestine, but also everywhere in the world.

While we demonstrated in Akka, Jafa, Nazareth and the West Bank, rockets were fired from Gaza demanding an end to the atrocities in Jerusalem.

The Israeli army response was to attack Gaza with even more violence than in the terrible days of previous offensives. This time causing the deaths of more than 80 people including 17 children and 7 women. Bombardments hit tower blocks, apartments, governmental and police buildings and even whole streets. Everyone is seeing it. No one intervenes.

How long will the world just sit idly by while we here in Gaza suffer like this? The people of Gaza need more than just statements and resolutions, while Israel receives the arms which are killing and terrorizing us.

I am a father first and a psychiatrist second. My dream is for my children to live, to grow, to learn, in safety. This is the same dream as that of every one of the clients I see. There will be more of them today, and tomorrow. It is my job to give hope. I will tell them what I tell my children and my wife: “Because this injustice for Palestinians has gone on for seven decades, that does not make it normal. The world is increasingly full of people who do not accept it is normal. There will be change.”

Concrete political action is needed NOW to end not only the current deathly bombing raids, but also this illegal occupation and siege of Gaza by Israel, immediately.

Our current living conditions under the siege are an affront to human dignity. I tell my children and my clients, “We Palestinians have the right to live as any other people in the world: to live in peace, in dignity and to enjoy our rights. It will come.”

The International Community MUST NOW fulfil its promise of a sovereign Palestinian state. Respect for international law demands every civilized country must recognize the State of Palestine now.

After more than seven decades now of occupation and misery, we remain resilient and will never give up. But there is no father who can bear to see his children live like this.”

Integrated Care Systems threaten patient care, jobs, pay, working conditions and the integrity of the NHS as a public service. we oppose them.

Resolution on ICSs 9 May 2020

Doctors in Unite notes:

  • While attention is focused on Covid, the NHS in England is being rapidly reorganised into 42 regional Integrated Care Systems (ICSs). This will strengthen the role of private companies, including US health insurance corporations, in clinical services and management of the NHS. ICSs will mean more private contracts, more down-skilling and outsourcing of NHS jobs, reduced services and significant spending cuts.
  • The Government plans new legislation to turn ICSs into legal bodies. Their February 2021 White Paper “Integration and Innovation” is based on NHS England proposals, derived from a US model which aims to spend less on care.
  • ICSs will have fixed annual budgets based on area-wide targets, rather than providing the care needed by the individuals who live there.
  • NHS England has accredited 83 corporations and businesses, including 22 from the US, to help develop ICSs. The White Paper will allow private companies to sit on both tiers of the ICS Board: an NHS body including representation from a local authority and open to unspecified others, and a Health and Care Partnership including independent sector partners and social care providers.
  • ICSs will sideline local authorities, threatening the future integrity of social care and reducing local accountability to elected Councillors, let alone patients and NHS staff.
  • NHS providers will be bound to a plan written by the ICS Board and to financial controls linked to that plan.
  • Procurement will be streamlined, eliminating safeguards for compliance with environmental, social and labour laws and the ability to reject bidders with poor track records.
  • The White Paper proposes that unspecified NHS roles currently covered by professional regulation could be deregulated in future due to changing technology.
  • NHS England proposes agile and flexible working with staff deployed at different sites and organisations across and beyond the system.
  • NHS England calls for most NHS funding to be delivered through a fixed block payment, based on the costs of the ICS system plan, whose value is determined locally. Local funding levels could threaten national agreements on wages, terms and conditions. Local pay could lead staff to leave areas where funding is cut, further reducing care.

Doctors in Unite believes:

  • Integrated Care Systems threaten patient care, jobs, pay, working conditions and the integrity of the NHS as a public service. We oppose them.
  • After 30 years of marketisation, it is time to restore the NHS to a fully accountable, publicly run service, free to all at the point of use. As unanimously adopted at Labour Party Conference in 2017, full scale repeal of the 2012 Health & Social Care Act and new legislation for a universal, comprehensive and publicly provided NHS are required.
  • We need a separate, collaborative, publicly funded Social Care Service.
  • Genuine integration based on the wider determinants of health, such as housing, involves more input from local authorities not less.

Doctors in Unite resolves:

  • To immediately report these threats to the NHS and social care, to appropriate Union structures and to find out what action the Union is taking.
  • To press the Union to take urgent action, including using its influence with other unions, the Government and opposition parties, based on the following demands:
  1. An immediate halt to the rollout of ICSs,
  2. An extended and meaningful consultation with the public and Parliament to decide how health and social care services are provided in England.
  3. The introduction of legislation to bring about a universal, comprehensive and publicly provided NHS, free at the point of use and fit for the 21st century.
  4. New technology must be used to improve patient care, not to deskill or replace or performance manage staff, or to deprive patients of face-to-face interaction with clinicians and other care staff that they may want or need.

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