Creator of Psychiatric Tales. Cartoonist, Writer, Thing
Wednesday, 17 August 2011
The old people's residential home, where I work two days a week, is under severe pressure from the squeeze on funding, caused by the government's cuts. It's one of a dwindling number of homes run by the council in this area. Many council run homes have been shut down already and more are planned to be closed as the government's cuts bite deep.
This particular home has had to shed staff already to save money, which has increased pressure on the remaining people who work there in what is an extremely demanding job to begin with. Working with elderly people who are all in various states of dementia is not an easy task. It is work that tests you both physically and mentally. Many of the residents are unable to feed themselves and therefore have to be assisted. This feeding process takes time and patience. Time, which I fear, is not always available to staff when there are not enough people around to do the work. These days office staff and management, and even the cleaners are having to chip in and help at meal times.
The knock-on effect of the added pressure of an overworked care staff has had a disastrous result. Currently there are six members of staff off sick. An unheard of number to be ill simultaneously. Do I think that these people are ill because they're overworked and exhausted? You bet I do.
I'm lucky, because I'm agency staff, and therefore get to pick and choose when I work and how many shifts I do. But the regular staff don't have this option. Care-workers get paid not much above the minimum wage. That's how much both residents and workers are valued in this society.
The government are desperate, of course, to ultimately shove all health care into the private sector. A state run health care sector is anathema to the free-market fundamentalists who are currently in power. They degrade public health sector deliberately so they can point to its failings and have the excuse to shut it down.
This would be all well and good if we could trust private health care to be run in our interests, but it won't be. The disastrous US model of private health insurance is not something we in the UK should be moving towards. As imperfect as the NHS is in this country, it does at the very least put patient care first, and not profit.
British Artist Darryl Cunningham is a prolific cartoonist. His book Psychiatric Tales is out now from Blank Slate in the UK, and from Bloomsbury in the US. He's currently working on Uncle Bob Adventures, also for Blank Slate. Science Tales is out now from Myriad Editions . Read all about me in this interview.