Overworked doctors and nurses. Toddlers sleeping on chairs. A full blown humanitarian crisis. Such headlines of “NHS in crisis” in the mainstream media have become the norm. The truth is that, under the Tories, the National Health Service is crumbling before our very own eyes. The full force of the labour movement needs to be mobilised in defence of the NHS.
Overworked doctors and nurses. Toddlers sleeping on chairs and patients dying of heart attack in corridors. A full blown humanitarian crisis in the 5th richest country in the world. Such headlines of “NHS in crisis” in the mainstream media have become the norm. The truth is that the National Health Service is crumbling before our very own eyes.
Join Socialist Appeal supporters this Saturday, 4th March, for the national demonstration to protect the NHS. Assemble from midday in Tavistock Square, London.
Special wards have had to be opened up in a hurry in order to cope with surges in hospital admissions. Hospital administrators are clearly out of touch with what is going on, as these surges seem to come completely out of the blue to them. Staff morale is at an all-time low and many are simply living day-to-day, waiting for the final collapse.
James O’Brien, a presenter on LBC radio, stated that he is beginning to think that the crisis we are observing is a deliberate part of the project to privatise the NHS. Dr Mark Porter, chair of the British Medical Association, has said the same thing openly: “We are being deliberately underfunded. What is being asked goes far beyond efficiency savings and dips into the area of cuts.” Unions have also estimated that for the NHS to survive it would need an additional £9.5 billion per year. And that is just to keep things going, on top of the existing “black hole” of £22 billion.
Doctors, nurses and patients are deliberately being put in such dire, inhumane conditions to speed up the death of the NHS and pave the way for privatisation; to make the NHS “sustainable” through Tory plans to close 19 hospitals across the country. As NHS activists have noted, the euphemistically named “sustainability and transformation plans” (STP) would be better described as “slash, trash and privatise”.
How did we end up here? This is the question that everyone is increasingly asking. Like with all the political earthquakes of 2016, however, the current crisis in the NHS was to be expected. It flows from the austerity policies of the Tory establishment, which are at root the result of the enduring crisis of the capitalism.
The NHS was established in 1948, at the beginning of the post-war economic boom – the dawn of the “golden age” of capitalism. Under these circumstances, the material conditions existed to provide for such a great progressive public project. Importantly, there was a mass radicalisation in society in support this vision.
But the situation today is completely different. 60 years after the first universal health care system in the world was established, capitalism crash dived into the slump that we are still experiencing now. From the point of view of the market and the broken profit system, maintaining the health and wellbeing of 70million people in this country has become unsustainable.
The leaders of the labour movement need to hammer the Tories on this question. Clearly the NHS is not safe in the hands of Hunt, May and the rest of this government of the rich. The only sickly patient that the Tories care about saving is the decrepit capitalist system.
The TUC should show the way forward in this fight by calling for a 24-hour general strike to co-ordinate all the struggles taking place: against council cuts; on the railways; and in defence of our NHS – and to kick out the Tories.
The wealth and technology undoubtedly exists to provide a fully-funded public healthcare system for all. The problem is that these resources sit in the hands of a tiny elite, protected by their Tory chums in Westminster. We need a Corbyn-led Labour government with a bold socialist programme to protect our NHS and guarantee us the healthcare we all deserve.