With COVID cases rising, flu season approaching, and millions already on waiting lists, the NHS is facing another dire winter. The cavalier and callous Tories are to blame for this crisis. We say: Save our NHS with socialist policies!
The NHS is facing a perfect storm this winter, as rapidly rising COVID infections once again threaten to overwhelm the system. This is a product of both the policies of the criminal Tory government, and the decrepit state of British capitalism.
At the time of writing, the rate of COVID infections in Britain is one of the very worst in the world, at almost 50,000 per day. This is 18 times greater than the rate in Spain, and nine times greater than in neighbouring France.
This is a damning indictment of the Tories, who at every stage throughout the pandemic have prioritised profits over lives. Almost 140,000 have officially died as a result of their murderous policies, but the real figure is undoubtedly much higher.
Although the government was initially quick off the mark with the vaccine rollout, the UK’s programme is now grinding towards a halt. As a result, the virus is now running rampant through schools, as only 14% of 12-to-15 year-olds have been jabbed.
Since the much lauded ‘freedom day’ in July, Boris Johnson has been keen to give the impression that everything is ‘returning to normal’. As such, the government has actively discouraged people from taking obvious precautions, such as wearing face masks indoors.
But now the chickens are coming home to roost for the Tories, as Britain heads towards another winter of chaos. Another lockdown, and all the misery it will bring, is becoming increasingly likely. Should this happen, the blame will lie squarely at the feet of this government of charlatans and clowns.
Already, the NHS is approaching breaking point, with bed occupancy at its highest level since November 2020. Close to half of the 126 acute trusts across England have averaged 95% capacity or more in recent weeks – a level that is regarded by medics as ‘dangerously high’.
In scenes familiar from the first and second waves of the pandemic, ambulances are taking hours to arrive for people waiting in agonizing pain. And then once at the hospital, it can take hours more before patients are transferred to a bed.
With a massive backlog of over 5.7 million patients, thousands are being denied access to lifesaving and pain-relieving treatment. It is estimated that it will take at least a decade to clear the cancer backlog alone.
One hospital trust has already restricted the provision of chemotherapy. And the number of people having to wait more than two months to begin cancer treatment after an urgent referral from their GP is at a record high.
COVID has only exacerbated what was already a severe crisis in the NHS. Having been starved of resources for years, the system was routinely overstretched even before the pandemic.
Staffing and bed levels have been cut to the bone, after a decade of austerity and back-door privatisation. The system is short of approximately 170,000 staff, due to an erosion of pay and conditions over years. And over 75,000 beds have been cut since the year 2000 – a 30% reduction.
All of this is testament to the senile state of British capitalism. Whilst the billionaires continue to get richer and richer, the rest of us are made to pay through cuts to our services, jobs, and wages.
Healthcare workers are reaching the end of their tether.
Workers organised in Unison, Unite, the GMB, and the Royal College of Nurses (RCN) have all rejected the government’s insulting 3% pay offer, which amounts to a real-terms wage cut.
These unions are all moving towards balloting for strike action. If nurses vote to strike, it would be the first nationwide industrial action in the RCN’s history. And even junior doctors – who until their struggle in 2016-17 almost never went on strike – are discussing whether to take action.
The potential therefore exists for a powerful combined struggle in defence of the NHS.
Instead of the derisory 3% pay-rise being offered by the Tories, grassroots union members are correctly demanding 15%. But to achieve this will require a determined and united campaign across the whole healthcare sector.
Ultimately, there is plenty of wealth in society to fully fund the NHS, but it is in the wrong hands. So long as capitalism is allowed to continue, it will mean further attacks on public health, on healthcare, and on all of our public services.
We say: Make the bosses pay for the crisis! Reverse all the cuts and privatisation! Nationalise the banks and Big Pharma! Organise for a public sector strike! Save our NHS with socialist policies!