As a front line social worker, employed in a Community Mental Health Team for Older Adults, I have seen how the privatisation agenda impacts on NHS staff, patients, and their carers on a daily basis, writes communist party health worker Chris.

 In-house domiciliary care has gone, along with decent, albeit low-paid, jobs and council-run care homes have been sold off to companies with little experience of anything other than the pursuit of a fast buck. Older people receive a ragged, patchwork quilt of services provided by private agencies often paying their staff little more than the minimum wage; provision is inconsistent, staff turnover high, and ‘customer satisfaction’ at an all time low.  

 

Foundation Trusts are gearing themselves for going it alone. Performance-related funding of teams has seen the adoption of ‘business-speak’, along with business practice, and priorities. Thresholds for intervention are raised on an annual basis, every potential care package is scrutinised by a panel of ‘resource allocators’, pressure is put upon workers to prioritise efficiency over effectiveness, and local authority funding levels drop ever further below the average care home charges, condemning poorer pensioners to the poorest care homes.

 

Meanwhile, our pay, conditions and pensions are under attack. HR departments are approaching unions seeking ‘discussions’ on Agenda for Change pay and conditions. Trusts, such as that in Buckinghamshire, funded by the government to employ agency workers on Agenda for Change, are trying to avoid doing so, paying poverty wages; denying porters and cleaners sick pay and overtime rates. Vacant posts are frozen, workers in re-structured teams are shunted sideways into jobs for which they have no relevant training or experience, and caseloads increase as the population ages and the effects of poverty – malnutrition, cold-related ailments, and depression – begin to soar.

 

But the government has misjudged the mood of workers – NHS employees and Unison members came out in record numbers on the March 26th protest and even the once-quiescent RCN has voted in favour of strike ballots. Union leaders are being pushed leftwards by angry members and we are preparing for sustained industrial action in defence of our jobs, pensions and the NHS itself. As a communist and union steward I now have an increasing profile within my workplace and have found the Morning Star an invaluable resource for arming my colleagues with the relevant information and arguments.