As the NHS approaches its 70th birthday on July 5, there is plenty for us to celebrate and defend.
Despite 30 years of repeated attempts by government “reforms” to fragment and distort it, and to divert a growing share of the NHS budget into the coffers of profit-seeking private companies, it remains at core what it was in 1948: the world’s first universal, publicly-funded health care system, delivering care on the basis of clinical need, not ability to pay.
It employs over 1 million well trained, dedicated staff who daily show their commitment to the values of the NHS as a public service. And, despite widespread misconceptions that those rich enough can buy themselves an equivalent service privately, the NHS is the only provider of emergency and trauma care, the provider of the vast majority of all forms of elective treatment, and the only service that does not pick and choose its patients.
The tiny private sector, with its tiny hospitals are only interested in simple elective operations – and depend for their existence on the NHS training staff, filling empty private beds with NHS-funded patients, and providing
intensive care and treatment of complex cases.
Of course the NHS, and the quality of care it can deliver, has been damaged by eight years of effectively frozen funding since 2010, and before that by a succession of ideologically driven neoliberal policies that have sought to break it up into competing units, outsource and privatise support services and clinical care, privatise the provision of capital (PFI) and maximize the openings for grasping private companies at home and abroad.
Performance on all fronts has been falling, capacity reduced to well below equivalent health services elsewhere, staffing levels reduced to levels that run high risks of service failure, staff pay frozen below inflation since 2010, training of new staff hit by scrapping bursaries, and the NHS itself in England repeatedly reorganised, top-down, into more secretive, unaccountable units.
Nor is it at all reassuring now tohear Theresa May, whose party and government have repeatedly lied and deceived the public on the levels of funding they were providing, promise a new NHS ‘long term funding plan’ – possibly financed through an extension of regressive taxation through National Insurance.
But the fact May has to pose as a supporter of the NHS, the fact that privatisation has been restricted in scope and many local plans for cuts in service have been blocked or delayed for years at a time indicates that campaigners are having an impact: if we fight we can win.
It’s partly because of the giant protest on March 4 last year, called and organised by Health Campaigns Together and People’s Assembly, that May could not secure the majority that would have let her pass new legislation for even more “reforms”.
So it’s important we build a massive show of strength on June 30 in London – to celebrate and defend a service many of us literally can’t live without.
Let’s step up the pressure.
Be there; join us, and bring your banners – and a smile: it will be big!
Republished from Health Campaigns Together
Veronica Fagan adds: As the article above reminds us, there are many reasons to ensure the biggest possible turnout for June 30. That means finding out if there are already plans to organise transport from your area – generally that’s much cheaper than travelling on public transport – and less of a big step for those for whom travelling to march is not something they do regularly.
Local health campaigns are the first obvious port of call. Are they organising anything? Can you spread the word in your local trade unions, trades councils and Labour Parties? Do they need funding to make it happen? Can you raise this in a labour movement body.
No local health campaign – or they aren’t organising anything. Start somewhere else. Your local trades council? Local Labour Party? One of the big trade unions – especially those who organise in the NHS.
Its great that the Labour Party flags up its Training and Campaigning bulletin of May 14 that it’s the NHS’s birthday and that its planning local events the weekend after the demo, on July 7. But that must not be used as an excuse not to get members – and banners – there on June 30
There isn’t an area of the country where there aren’t people who want to be involved, so long as the work is done to make it happen. And let Socialist Resistance know whats happening in your area so we can share stories of success and avoid pitfalls.
Make June 30 a Happy Birthday for our NHS!