The dire threat posed to health visiting in the UK has long been highlighted by Unite – and today (September 26) Unite delegate Joyce Still brought that message to the Labour Party conference.
Joyce, a trained nurse who has worked as a midwife and now is a health visitor in a Sure Start children’s centre, said that, when she first started, she really enjoyed her job.
“Now I can’t wait to finish my working week,” she said. “My profession health visiting remains under severe threat and the service we are now able to provide is being eroded day by day.
“We face continual cuts, lack of resources, privatisation and overwork,” she added.
Joyce told of health visitors who have to complete electronic reports in their own spare time just to keep up, who are “under constant pressure to meet unrealistic targets and meet key performance indicators”.
She spoke of the “fear culture in the NHS” in which “a vicious cycle of pressure” has led to ill health among health visitors, with many going off with work related stress.
“We have seen a staggering 20 per cent drop in health visitor numbers since 2015,” she said. “Other professions are faring no better — pathology and pharmacy, mental health nurses, ambulances, estates and cleaners, NHS staff are all facing cuts and further privatisation.”
Joyce denounced private companies such as Virgin Care which are “hoovering up services”.
“I did not become a nurse to line tax avoiders’ pockets and make profits for private company shareholders,” she told conference. “I went into nursing because I wanted to work in a caring profession.
“I don’t care about shareholders but I do care about helping the lady whose daughter’s disability living allowance has been cut because she now only has 10 fits per night rather than 20.”
Joynce explained how across the NHS unions like Unite are fighting back for the services they deliver.
But she added the only real solution is “a radical socialist government led by our Leader Jeremy Corbyn.
“Now let’s all work together and make that happen,” she said to applause.