Demonstrations are taking place outside hospitals across the country tomorrow, to celebrate the 73rd birthday of the NHS, and to demand safety, pay justice, and an end to privatisation. We need socialist policies to save our NHS.
The NHS was created 73 years ago – on 5 June 1948 – by a Labour government to provide high quality healthcare to all, not just for the rich. For the first time ever, millions of working-class people could finally get access to a proper doctor and treatment.
Healthcare was no longer to be a commodity available to only those who could pay. This also meant removing the ability of the ruling class to profit from what was otherwise a multimillion pound industry. For this reason, the Tories – and the whole establishment – furiously resisted the creation of the NHS.
Join Socialist Appeal supporters, healthcare campaigners, and other activists outside hospitals across the country tomorrow for anniversary demonstrations in support of the NHS; against the Tory cuts and privatisation that are destroying it; and to demand safety and pay justice for health workers.
Now, decades later, the NHS is in a severe crisis. The Tory government’s criminal decisions to delay lockdown measures put the NHS under incredible pressure. The system was nearly completely overwhelmed, with hospitals running out of oxygen, and patients stuck in ambulances for lack of beds.
None of this was inevitable. The NHS has been under attack for decades – by both Tory and ‘New Labour’ governments. Over 158,000 beds – 50% of the total capacity – have been cut from the NHS over the past 30 years.
Working conditions and pay have been whittled down over the years, resulting in a chronic shortage of staff. One-in-ten nursing positions are vacant. Many more are considering leaving the profession following the insulting 1% pay rise from the Tories.
Despite the NHS being created to remove the market from healthcare, the profiteers have found their way in through the back door. ‘Clinical commissioning’, PFI, and outsourcing have allowed the bankers and billionaires to profit handsomely from our health.
This process was set in motion under the Blairite ‘New Labour’ governments, but accelerated since under the Tories. In 2010, the NHS spent £4.1bn on private sector contracts. By 2019, this had more than doubled to £9.2bn. Now an estimated 25% of NHS spending goes to the private sector.
Then there are the billions of pounds of money leached out of the system by the Big Pharma companies – often for medicines that were developed with funding from the public purse!
The logic of the market is to maximise profits. Despite all claims to the contrary, this means cutting costs, reducing the quality of services, and attacking the conditions of staff.
Although the Tories claim to ‘protect the NHS’, in reality they stand for protecting the ability of the rich to profit from public funds.
And with renowned Thatcherite, banker, and free-marketeer Sajid Javid now in charge of the health department, replacing the “totally fucking hopless” Matt Hancock, the privatisation and dismantling of the NHS is only going to get worse.
During the pandemic, for example, instead of requisitioning beds from the private sector, over £400 million a month was handed over from the NHS to private healthcare providers to allow access to their hospitals.
These so-called ‘public private partnerships’ are set to continue for years, due to the massive backlog of operations that were put on hold due to COVID. Already, over five million people are waiting for treatment.
This backlog is expected to take up to to five years to clear. In the absence of a mass recruitment drive, this means putting an already exhausted workforce under incredible pressure.
Save our NHS
Whilst fat-cat shareholders are licking their lips at this prospect for profits, the rest of us are left to suffer. More than enough wealth exists in society to properly fund decent healthcare for all – but it’s in the wrong hands.
It’s time for us to mobilise and say: enough is enough!
Healthcare workers are on the frontline of the struggle to save the NHS. But ultimately this is a task for the entire labour movement, on the basis of bold socialist policies.
The NHS will never be safe in Tory hands. Our health will never be safe under capitalism. We say:
- Fully fund the NHS – through the nationalisation of the banks, finance houses, and top 100 monopolies.
- Kick out the profiteers – reverse all outsourcing and privatisation; nationalise Big Pharma; and bring all healthcare services under public ownership and workers’ control.
- Invest in staff – for a union-led mass recruitment drive of doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals, with a proper pay rise of at least 15%, and guaranteed decent and safe working conditions.