By Andrew Bromhall, NHS mental health nurse and Unison rep (in a personal capacity)
I work as a crisis nurse and unscheduled care practitioner, with the aim of giving patients a choice – if safe – between hospital admission and home treatment. This choice, unfortunately, is sometimes made for them.
With the shortage of mental health in-patient beds, people are often offered care hundreds of miles away from their homes.
I work in Wales and have known patients placed as far as way as Southampton – a distance of over 200 miles.
This leads to increased stress on mental health workers. We have to arrange transfers, have increased paperwork, offer support and care to distressed and anxious families – and at times very unwell patients.
The NHS needs to value and nurture its staff. Last year 6,479 nurses were off sick for four weeks or more due to stress or mental health problems. The total number of sick days has risen a third between 2012-13 and 2016-17.
This exacerbates staffing shortages in vital areas such as A&E, wards and mental health care. They are all rammed.
Hospitals are struggling to fill hundreds of vacancies – with possibly 100,000 posts unfilled across the NHS, according to Labour analysis.
This is a disgrace. It is a result of years of Tory austerity – and the actions of the Blairite Labour MPs in parliament and AMs in the Welsh Assembly.
NHS staff are desperate for change! The government gives us no recognition for the difficult, stressful work we face day in, day out in an understaffed and overstretched service.
We demand an above-inflation pay rise to start to make up for years of real-terms pay cuts. And bring back the bursary for student nurses now so more can afford to train.
Fund the NHS fully – reverse the cuts and the sale of services to the lowest bidder – so we have plenty of staff and beds and can focus on doing our jobs.
Health union leaders – in particular in Unison and the RCN – need to build for industrial action to win these demands, for our patients as well as for us. Coordinating strikes – with the civil servants, for example, who got a big majority for action in their recent indicative ballot – could prevent further privatisation of our NHS.