As the NHS gets ready to celebrate its 70th birthday on 7th July, conference slammed cuts to NHS funding since 2010 by successive UK governments.
It backed an NEC motion which set out a range of actions to address the crisis in Health and Social Care, including a continuing campaign against privatisation in the NHS and for the delivery of social care by the public sector, universal and free at point of need.
Two Scottish speakers contributed to this debate, one from Health, the other from social care.
Katrina Murray, Lanarkshire Health, highlighted their experience as a health branch representing members in health and social care integration – the North Lanarkshire Partnership and the South Lanarkshire Integrated Joint Board.
“For most of our activists in our branch who have spent their entire UNISON life working under NHS Scotland’s Partnership Approach and Staff Governance Standard, here every member of staff is involved in decisions which affect them, where the representatives of staff – us the recognised staff trade unions have a seat round the table at all stages and are treated as equals.”
“But now we are in completely new territory. It’s known as social work. It’s a completely new world. We have had to get used to new things – senior managers who believe that the mushroom theory of management is appropriate, managers who believe they can use no policy whatsoever to deal with the Terms and Conditions of NHS Staff.”
Katrina added, “Stipulation that appropriate qualification for joint NHS/ Social Care integration posts is a social work qualification thus debarring nurses and AHPs who are good managers from applying.
“Let alone having to deal with elected members and local politicians”
On the positive side, Katrina said, “It’s also made us get out of our silos. We’ve had to make better pals with our local government branch colleagues. We’ve had to swap intel, present joint fronts and work together.
Lorraine Needham, Edinburgh City social care worker within health and social care, highlighted the nature of the workforce in home care, as predominately female many in their 50s and 60s and suffering from health issues including osteoarthritis, (wear and tear) and muscular pain.
She pointed out that stress was the biggest issue meaning with many staff going off long term with work related stress, which adds new pressure to removing staff, morale is very low, with 15 minute visits and half hour visits.
To top it all, she explained, “In February this year, we had a red weather warning in Scotland, and our carers walked to work in knee deep snow to their service users, then we learned on the news NHS staff were getting the army to take them to work and back.”
“We questioned this to be told by our organisers and co-ordinators we are not essential workers. This upset us and angered the staff we are essential in the community and we deliver a vital service to the elderly.”
A subsequent motion from South East Region and Surrey Council calling for a Health and Social Care Conference, fell, Edinburgh’s John Stevenson opposed the motion, saying we had just passed a motion that laid out policy and the organisation needed to deliver on this strategy.
John pointed out that such a conference would cut across the union’s democratic and bargaining structures. He warned: “My branch isn’t clear how such a Conference could deliver on the careful planning that creates good strategies and what status any strategies would have,” and that we should use the existing machinery.”