NHS workers facing redundancy in a pandemic

While Matt Hancock was clapping for NHS workers, plans were going ahead to make a large group of them redundant, writes Rachel Eborall.

NHS at 70: Free For All, Forever – central London protest 30th June 2018. Photo: Steve Eason

In December 2019, NHS workers based in Commissioning Support Units (CSUs) were told that 20% cost efficiency savings needed to be made by Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs). CSUs provide advice and back office functions including recruitment, HR, Finance and IT to CCGs.  In March 2020, it was announced that up to 200 workers may be made redundant.

Then Covid-19 hit.

Throughout Covid-19, workers within CSUs have been at the forefront of developing the support mechanisms to ensure that patients and service users can still access medical support and advice through virtual appointments. Members of CSU were redeployed to help throughout the NHS.

But at the height of the pandemic, the process of reorganisation and cost saving continued. You would have thought they had other things to deal with.  Not only have these workers had the stress of working through Covid-19, they have also had to deal with the anxiety of being made redundant during one of the biggest economic recessions of recent times.

Just as Matt Hancock the Health Secretary was clapping for carers, his own department was agreeing to sack workers that had played a vital role through the pandemic.

The NHS cannot lose one worker. The majority of the staff facing redundancy are in roles such as procurement, finance, risk management and data analysis. We need the expertise of support services to ensure that care can be delivered safely and effectively. In fact, we need a massive recruitment drive within the NHS and that includes recruiting staff to work in support functions. Years of cuts and austerity have meant that the NHS is broken and needs to be rebuilt.

We need health unions and NHS campaigners to come together to fight to save these jobs.  This fight needs to go beyond groups traditionally associated with health campaigns. If the Tories can sack 200 NHS workers in the height of a pandemic, then they will feel emboldened to sack other public sector workers. Private sector employers will also find it easier to sack workers.  We need to encourage all those who clapped for carers and drew rainbow pictures for key workers to get involved in this campaign. Ordinary people up and down the country will be disgusted by this.

If the Tories are coming for NHS staff during a pandemic, they are prepared to come for all of us.

We need to pressure our unions to coordinate militant action including, strikes and occupations. Throughout the country, mutual aid groups were set up to support people through the Covid-19 crisis, and we can use these networks to defend our communities and our workplaces from Tory attacks. We have been inspired by the massive Black Lives Matters protests. We also know that if ordinary people are forced to pay for this crisis, then people from the BAME communities will be disproportionately affected. We need to ensure that legacy of racism and oppression isn’t played out through more austerity.

We are at turning point. Job losses are not inevitable: but if we let them get away with job cuts like the ones they are proposing in the NHS, then it will begin to feel as though they are. We need to fight for these jobs now, at the same time as fighting for an economy that prioritises care and dealing with climate change. The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted just how broken our society is: too many people live in poverty, in substandard housing, working on zero-hour contracts. The government is treating deaths from Covid-19 and job losses as an inevitability. They are not: we need to act now to make sure they are prevented.

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