Crisis at the Conquest

Staff speak out about shameful cuts at our local hospital

Under pressure: staff work 60-hour weeks, doctors workloads have doubled, there are not enough beds, and patients wait for hours in ambulances

Nurses at the Conquest Hospital in Hastings are regularly working 60-hour weeks. This is because of a pay cap that has limited rises to just 1.5% per year.

This puts extra stress on staff who are already under pressure in what is supposed to be a 37½ hour week.

Overwork and stress for NHS workers is a growing problem, with a recent survey revealing that almost 40 per cent of staff reported feeling unwell as a result of work-related pressures –the highest level in five years. 

One specialist nurse with 20 years experience told us she is just scraping by. She has had to take out a payday loan in order to buy her children Christmas presents.

To avoid overtime payments, East Sussex Healthcare Trust pays nurses as if they were working a second job.

The hospital is 15 nurses
down on an average shift

It is just one of a number of ways the Trust tries to save money while, in the case of the Conquest, struggling with a £30 million budget deficit.

Unfilled staff vacancies mean doctors are having to look after double the number of patients, while waiting times for clinics keep rising.

The Conquest is 15 nurses down on an average shift. This can mean two staff nurses looking after a 27-bed ward.

The Trust is also closing down wards and reducing capacity – so staff are told they are on ‘black alert’. That could be ‘minus 20’ meaning there are 20 people waiting in Accident & Emergency – and no beds for them

And waiting times to be seen in A&E are growing. Very ill but not non-urgent patients are routinely kept in ambulances for hours, so the hospital meets its treatment targets.

Companies take over the easy,
money-making departments

Privatisation of the NHS is a major concern among staff. One doctor told us: “People often think it means having to suddenly pay at the point of care for health services. But it comes in baby steps. 

“Companies take over the easy, money-making departments in hospitals and this leaves the NHS with the more complex money-draining aspects of it. 

“For example, at the Conquest, scans carried out overnight have been privatised. We phone a private company which charges the hospital a lot more than if it hired an in-house radiologist who would produce cheaper, higher quality results.”

Many staff are clear about what it will take to mend the NHS and make life better for patients and staff.

One nurse told us: “I’ll be voting for a Labour government to save our health service.” And he warned: “If the Conservatives get in, we’ll have the American system, people will have to take out health insurance – and pay through the nose for everything.”

Our rescue plan will deliver
the resources the NHS needs

Hastings & Rye candidate Peter Chowney, said: “Labour will boost healthcare spending by more than £30 billion and introduce a National Care Service. But it’s not just about spending more, it’s about how the NHS is structured around ‘internal markets’.

“We need to change that, to make it easier for health workers to do their jobs, and make our NHS work more closely with the local community.”

Labour recently announced a rescue plan for the NHS that will deliver the extra resources and cash needed – increasing spending by over 4 per cent per year. This includes spending more on buildings and equipment. 

We have committed £1 billion to restoring a training bursary and in ‘continuing professional development’ to help recruit 24,000 extra nurses, as well as extra midwives and allied health professionals. 

We will put an immediate end to the outsourcing, profiteering and marketisation of one of our nation’s greatest assets. Our NHS is not for sale. Its creation is one of the Labour Party’s proudest achievements and it is only safe in our hands.

About The Author

Rick Dillon, Press Officer for Peter Chowney