Blog 40: Heroes, PPE, and honouring those who have died at work

Hi Dudes

Blog 40 is here, beaming out a positive rainbow in this horrible time. UNISON members and the NHS in general have never been shown in such a wonderful light.

To be the tiniest cog in this wonderful organisation makes me incredibly proud – Our / Your colleagues are hero’s, I’ve always known that, but it is fantastic that everyone can now see your skill, commitment, and professionalism at this most difficult of times.

LTHT has seemingly done extremely well so far as an organisation. Being in theatres and having to don the lovely Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) I’ve never been in a situation where I’ve not had the adequate stocks. There have been blips and teething troubles outside theatres, and we have supported members with these (mainly grey area interpretation of new guidelines) but I’ve not had a colleague approach me in theatres to say they haven’t had what the guidelines state is needed. I am sure there are negative stories as well, but personally I have felt supported. The way the Trust created all that ICU capacity was amazing and has ensured we’ve always been ahead of any surge. The clinicians, staff, and managers all deserve a huge pat on the back for that forward planning. Where we have had difficulties is who fits into the shielding categories – that has produced difficult conversations for all concerned.

Unfortunately this has not been replicated nationwide. The TUC has called on the government to set up a public inquiry into the “grotesque” failure by the Tory government to provide frontline workers with adequate personal protective equipment (PPE).

The TUC says ministers must commit to starting an independent, judge-led inquiry by the end of 2020.

The union body says the failure to give staff adequate PPE has resulted in workers being exposed to unnecessary risk.

More than 80 health and social care workers have lost their lives so far. Note this is now unfortunately an outdated statistic.

The TUC says that in order for the same mistakes not to be made in the future the inquiry must look at:

Why there were delays in the planning for and delivery of PPE.

Whether guidance about the need for PPE in diverse workplace settings was timely and robust.

Whether staff were put under pressure to work with inadequate or out-of-date PPE; and if so why.

Whether staff were threatened with disciplinary action for raising concerns about the lack of PPE; and if so why.

Why the NHS, social and residential care and other workplace settings have struggled to source PPE from suppliers?

On the last of those points Leeds Trades Council issued the following press release;-

Gown shortage shows need for urgent measures to increase production and distribution of PPE to frontline workers

With Public Health England changing its advice on safety in the light of a predicted shortage of full-length gowns, Leeds TUC is growing increasingly concerned about the safety of frontline workers, particularly in the NHS where a growing number of health workers have died from contracting Covid-19.

There have also been numerous stories in the press, including at the Wheatfields Hopsice in Headingley, about worries about supplies of

PPE running out, whilst Barnsley hospital workers were supplied with out of date PPE.

Leeds TUC is calling on the government to take over factories if necessary to increase the production of PPE to make sure that no frontline worker is forced into reusing PPE unsafely, or resorting to using out of date PPE which may be of questionable safety.

Iain Dalton, Leeds TUC Publicity Officer said, “Given many items of PPE are not complicated to manufacture, it is urgent that additional productive capacity is acquired by the government to make sure staff aren’t short. We call upon the government to nationalise PPE producers and take over any other necessary factories and re-tool them, with democratic management by workers in co-ordination with frontline workers in the NHS and other key workers to ensure they are getting the supplies they need.”

John Ingleson, Leeds TUC Assistant Secretary and Chair of Leeds Teaching Hospitals Unison said “It shouldn’t be so hard to mass produce the PPE that frontline workers need. We were told that the government would be doing everything it takes in relation to tackling Coronavirus, so if there isn’t enough supplies why can’t the government take over factories to ensure frontline NHS staff get all the supplies they need.”

1) Leeds TUC represents around 30,000 trade unionists across Leeds, with affiliations from unions including hospital, local government and care workers in Unison and GMB, retail and distribution workers in Usdaw, teachers in the NEU, DWP and HMRC workers in PCS and many other different sectors of workers

Tuesday, 28 April is International Workers’ Memorial Day – It is the traditional day the union movement comes together to honour those who have died at work – the motto is “remember the dead, fight for the living” . Obviously this year the day has increased significance so the Trade Unions have come together to suggest that

our fallen brothers and sisters, who have lost their lives at work during this crisis are given a minutes silence.

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “This is the ultimate tribute to remember workers who’ve lost their lives and put themselves in harm’s way to keep us safe and vital services running. Every year the sacrifice of workers around the world is recognised, but this year has a special significance because of the pandemic.

“Thousands of key staff are on the frontline while the rest of us are in lockdown. That’s why we’ve issued this call for the whole country to take part and remember the sacrifices they’ve made. The best tribute we can all pay them is to stay inside to protect the NHS.

“The minute’s silence is a thank you to all the workers including nurses, midwives, cleaners and care staff who’ve died from this devastating virus.”

The minutes silence has not yet been “agreed“ but I am sure it will be – keep an eye on our Facebook page for further details (UNISON Leeds Teaching-Hospitals).

Your UNISON Branch has also discussed giving a large donation to any charity established for the families of NHS workers who have lost their lives. We are also discussing paying tribute to all health workers involved in this time on our new branch flag which is (was) in production prior to the lockdown.

For those of you who are struggling mentally (I certainly have had issues) the NHS has a hotline to lend an expert ear – 0300 131 7000 0r text FRONTLINE to 85258. Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, said: “We know our teams are providing tremendous support, not just to the patients they’re treating, but to each other, across the health service. It’s extremely heartening to see this kind

of support will be available to NHS teams, via phone and text. Locally the trust have a number too : (0113) 206 5897 offering similar support for LTHT staff.

Domestic Violence (DV) during lockdown is unfortunately (but inevitably) on the increase – DV includes physical, emotional, sexual and financial abuse. DV victims calling 999 just need to tap 55 when connected and the operator will send out police officers to the phones location.

The Branch have had a lot of enquiries regarding enquiries regarding pregnancy – The trust COVID-19 telephone advice line: 07464907978.

On Wednesday 29th April Leeds Trades Council ( who we are affiliated to) are hosting a Zoom public meeting regarding ;- Covid testing , PPE , the governments pathetic response etc where the Branch will be discussing the real life experience of front line staff in the NHS – Further details on our Facebook page , but its open for all to “attend”.

As I write this the news is coming in that there is a plan to close the LGI canteen on Thursday 23rd April. The Branch are naturally opposed to this, and see it as neglectful of the trust to not provide adequate facilities for staff (especially at weekends) doing extended shifts. We will be raising and campaigning over this move…. We will try update you again on our Facebook page.

The Branch is still operational at present albeit in a reduced physical capacity. As part of our response to the coronavirus we have had to take the difficult decision to suspend all work performed in the Branch Office.

We appreciate how frustrating this will be for you and would like to express our sincere apologies. We have not taken this decision lightly and would like to reassure you that we are taking all

necessary steps for you to be able to contact us for any advice during this unprecedented time.

If you need to contact us during the hours of 9:00am and 5 :00pm Monday until Friday please ring

07961 348 348

OR

07961 348 368 Or email: unison.sjuh@nhs.net

Please take care of yourselves and your colleagues. Please be in touch if we can help you in any way.

….speak soon xxx