The Guardian view on Rishi Sunak’s NHS plans: ramping up private medicine | Editorial

The Tories have not reversed pro-market reforms in healthcare but energised them

Last October, Rishi Sunak sat down beside Catherine Poole, a 77-year-old patient at Croydon University hospital, no doubt hoping for a breezy on-camera conversation. When Mr Sunak asked whether staff had looked after her “really nicely”, Ms Poole replied: “They always do. It’s a pity you don’t pay them more .” That sentiment seems to have hardened. Health workers in Britain began their largest strike on Monday and polls showed the public solidly behind them.

The disputes will eventually be settled, but patients will suffer more the longer they go on. Yet it seems that Mr Sunak’s government is in no mood to end the quarrel . That is why Monday’s strike, the biggest in the 75-year history of the NHS, largely affected English health services. Walkouts have been suspended in Scotland and Wales after new pay offers. Ministers need to face up to reality. The NHS in England is in crisis. This might lend weight to the argument that the system is in crying need of correction, yet the health service in England was just reorganised under the Health and Care Act 2022 so that the NHS could plan “integrated” services – reversing a decade of pro-market reforms.

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I wasn’t sure if I’d strike – until I locked eyes with another NHS nurse on one awful, ordinary day | Maxine Wade

For me, this action isn’t about pay – it’s about a profession that has been forced away from patient-centred care, and how it’s changed me

In my 10 years on the NHS frontline, things have always been hard: staffing has always been a struggle, and beds have always been hard to come by. But now the situation is untenable. I cannot emphasise enough how dangerous things have become in 2023.

Wards are so drastically understaffed that patient safety is at risk on a daily basis. I look after up to 12 patients on a shift. What that looks like in practice is managing 12 sets of medication, care plans and paperwork, updating 12 different families, and providing tailored care for 12 different people: signing forms for procedures, changing dressings, making sure they don’t become unwell, escalating concerns to the doctor. Making sure 12 different people are eating and drinking and using the toilet.

Maxine Wade is a nursing associate

As told to Lucy Pasha-Robinson

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