Margaret Greenwood MP has called on the government to protect NHS services and give workers a fair pay rise in a debate in parliament which she secured and led on NHS staffing levels.
The Wirral West MP applied for the debate after a dramatic rise in the number of vacancies within the NHS over recent months.
In June of this year – the latest month for which figures are available – there were more than 132,000 vacancies in the NHS in England, up from around 98,000 the previous year and up from around 105,000 in March.
For registered nursing staff, as of June, there were over 46,000 vacancies, which is alarmingly almost 8,000 more than in March.
For medical staff, there were over 10,500 vacancies in June, which is around 2,500 more than in March.
Margaret Greenwood said that “the NHS staffing crisis is a direct result of the failure of Conservative governments to plan and deliver the workforce that we need,” adding that “an extremely serious situation has got worse” since the Covid pandemic.
The MP for Wirral West said in the debate that she had met with members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) who had told her about the incredible amount of pressure that they are under, both in terms of financial hardship and due to working in under-staffed wards and treatment centres.
She pointed out that they had told her about some nurses going to food banks, some unable to afford to drive to work and some leaving the profession to work in chain stores for better pay.
RCN members have voted in favour of strike action for the first time in their over one hundred year history. They have done so over fair pay and for safe patient care. Along with the RCN, other trade unions representing NHS staff are also balloting for strike action, including Unite the Union, Unison and GMB.
Margaret Greenwood expressed support for them, saying that it is not something they are doing lightly.
Margaret Greenwood also urged the government to take note of a recent poll of 6,000 adults carried out on behalf of Unite which found that 73% of respondents supported NHS and care workers receiving pay rises that keep up with increases in the cost of living.
Speaking after the debate, Margaret Greenwood MP said, “It is clear that there is insufficient staffing capacity in the NHS in England to meet the needs of patients.
“This is due to the Conservatives’ failure to address the staffing crisis that was apparent even before Covid hit.
“However, in recent months we have seen a particularly alarming rise in the number of vacancies in the NHS in England. Waiting times for treatment are also getting worse, with people left to wait in pain and anxiety.
“As of September this year, there were more than 345,000 people in Cheshire and Merseyside waiting for elective treatment, while in Wirral in October, more than 49% of patients waited more than four hours in A&E. Ambulance waiting times are getting worse too, both in the North West and across England.
“The Royal College of Nursing announced earlier this month that their members at the majority of NHS employers across the UK have voted to take strike action in their fight for fair pay and safe staffing. This includes at Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.
“Other unions and organisations continue to ballot members over possible strike action.
“The government has allowed this staffing crisis to develop and it is putting staff and patients under great pressure and at risk on a daily basis.
“I pay tribute to all of the nurses, doctors, other medical professionals and indeed everyone who works in the NHS for the work that they do to treat and look after patients and to help keep them safe.
“Many are overworked and underpaid, experiencing high levels of stress because of the shortage of colleagues to work alongside them.
“They deserve a government that will stand up for them and deliver the fair pay and safe working conditions they have a right to expect.”
You can watch Margaret Greenwood MP’s debate via this link – https://tinyurl.com/bd5pj2yu – and you can read her speech, as well as contributions to the debate from other MPs, here: https://tinyurl.com/bdefxbmt