Our NHS Our Future.

I make no apology for banging on about this: we are under attack! The Union is under attack, the National Health Service is under attack and our pay and pensions are under attack!

Since the Coalition government produced it’s White Paper on the future of the Health Service: ‘Liberating the NHS’ there seems to have been a phoney war. The paper has come out and to most people nothing has changed, everything has stayed the same.

There is a feeling that the  expected cuts will happen to somebody else and not affect us. That somehow Ambulance Services are immune.

Let’s not be fooled or lulled into a false sense of security. We are going to be involved in the fight of our lives. The White Paper has within it the means to destroy the NHS as we know it, and reduce it to a brand name.

A brand name owned and used by a multitude of private investors and opportunists. A brand name stuck on the side of hospitals where private patients come first and NHS patients are pushed to the back of the queue. A brand name painted on the side of ambulances with the tag line Foundation Trust.

The White Paper is designed to accelerate the replacement of a publicly owned and integrated National Health Service by a privatised and fragmented market system.

The Coalition does not have a democratic mandate to do this. Let us remember that.

Our NHS reduced to this is an insult and a betrayal to the working men and women who fought to have decent, publicly owned, publicly funded health care for them and their children.

Universal free health care for all. Publicly owned – publicly funded, democratically run. It was a dream to some, an ideal to others. The baton to defend those dreams and ideals has been passed to us – we cannot afford to drop it.

The Coalition government’s Comprehensive Spending Review will be announced on 20th October.

On that day the phoney war will end and the real war will begin.

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Lord Hutton will announce the result of his review of Public Sector Pensions on 15th October.  A review set up by the Coalition government, in part because they are upset we are all living longer!

There has been a sustained campaign in sections of the press, leading up to the review, to soften the general public up by painting public sector workers as workshy, greedy, over paid time-servers who, after they have had a life of Riley at the public expense, retire on gold plated pensions. Gold plated! (The average public sector pension is £4,000 per year).

If that politically motivated lie fails to get their message across they then go on to their second propaganda tool: public v private!

They try to drive a wedge between public sector workers and private sector workers. Selectively comparing pensions, salaries, terms and conditions and jobs.

Private good – Public Bad  is their battle-cry while never really explaining how that fits in with their other mantra “we are all in it together”!

As far as pensions go the real divide is not between public and private sector workers, but between the fat cats and the rest of us.

Unison will defend our members pensions.

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I wrote a few weeks ago about Unison’s commitment to A&E Support staff and how we were determined to pursue a proper career pathway.

One way of doing that was to make it easier for staff to progress to paramedic, mainly through the Student Paramedic route, with the support that will be needed.

We are making progress. Two more Student Paramedic courses are planned for November for existing A&E Support staff to apply. There are 48 places to fill.

This is really good news and Unison will give our members all the help and support we can to help them develop.

Unison is represented and takes the lead on the Education & Development Sub Group were these initiatives are agreed. Peter Hannell (Senior Sector Representative and Branch Equalities Officer) leads our team and I thank him.

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I wrote last week about the false distinction people make regarding ‘front-line and non front-line’ staff within the NHS in general and ambulance services in particular.

The distinction is made to divide us, particularly in times of financial cutbacks and potential job losses.

Unison is now running a campaign with the slogan ‘I Am Frontline’.  More details will follow.

Staff in Support Services are as vital to our Service as anyone and we shouldn’t fall for this Coalition’s ‘expendable pen pushers’ rhetoric. 

I could not get to the last Support Services Conference but I will be at the next one to show Unison’s support.

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If you are reading this, work for the London Ambulance Service and are not yet a member of the union: Join Today!

We are stronger together.

Eric Roberts

Branch Secretary