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Fight to save the Wales NHS
Dave Reid, Socialist Party Wales
Hundreds will be rallying in Tredegar in south Wales on 1 July to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the NHS. The march assembles at the house of Aneurin Bevan, founder of the NHS, who based the principles of the NHS on the Tredegar Workmen's Medical Aid Society.
He used his experience in providing cheap healthcare in Tredegar as a model for a national health service. He said: "All I am doing is extending to the entire population of Britain the benefits we had in Tredegar for a generation or more. We are going to 'Tredegar-ise' you."
Bevan attempted to apply socialist policies to solving the health crisis in Britain after World War Two. The concessions he made to private vested interests - the continuation of private health for the wealthy, GP and other services being provided by private business and the unaccountable nature of the health authorities - have haunted the NHS ever since.
Bevan had to overcome the opposition of the Tories and leaders of the medical professions who fought tooth and nail against the NHS being formed at all. And the Tories have been attempting to unravel the gains of the NHS ever since.
But Bevan also faced opposition from within his own party - the Labour right wing who echoed Tory arguments that the NHS was "unaffordable". In 1951 Bevan resigned from the cabinet when the right-wing Labour chancellor Hugh Gaitskell imposed prescription and dental charges. Later in the 2000s Gaitskell's heirs, Blair and Brown, drove through even more privatisation of the NHS than the Tories had.
And the principles underpinning the NHS are currently under threat in Wales from Welsh Labour. While the demands on the health service have grown, spending in real terms has been cut and access to its provisions has been reduced. Welsh Labour has taken an axe to many services, including A&Es.
The Welsh government intends just five A&E departments for the whole of south Wales. Communities in the south Wales Valleys are still campaigning for NHS services to be returned, while the Welsh health minister considers more cuts.
The cuts to the NHS are framed around the idea that there are certain objective forces that are inevitable and the health service must be reorganised to take account of these - an ageing population, an increased demand for health services, a scarcity of doctors and nurses and "scarce resources" (spending cuts).
An ageing population means that spending on the NHS in Wales should be increased not held back. Scarce resources are not inevitable - they are human-made by Tory and Labour governments. The Tory cuts must be fought.
Instead of pretending that the cuts to NHS services are the best way forward, the Welsh government should lead a campaign to force this weak Tory government to come up with the cash. The fact that the Tories have grudgingly been compelled to promise more money for the NHS in the future, shows that they are under pressure.
The Welsh Labour leaders have not even protested against the Tory cuts to Welsh health spending. They have passively accepted them, seemingly accepting the Tory argument that there is no alternative to the cuts. But of course, as Jeremy Corbyn has pointed out, these cuts are not inevitable - they are a political decision. So too is the decision to cave in to spending cuts and implement an entirely reconfigured health service to match Tory spending priorities.
Where would the money come from? Well if the £20 billion a year cut from corporation tax by the Tories were returned then immediately the Welsh closure programme could be reversed. If we nationalised the pharmaceutical companies and the rest of the private sector that rip off the health service we would save billions.
Socialist Party Wales demands:
- No more cuts to hospital services in Wales - keep A&E and children's wards at Royal Glamorgan hospital
- Restore local A&Es to Ystrad Fawr, Aneurin Bevan, Llwnypia, Mountain Ash, Neath Port Talbot and Prince Phillip hospitals
- End the staff shortages - for the recruitment of hundreds of new health professionals with free education plus a grant for all medical and nursing students
- For the Welsh government to refuse to implement Tory spending cuts - campaign for a return of the billions cut from spending on public services
- Rally to renew the NHS in Wales on Thursday 5 July at Aneurin Bevan Statue, Queen Street, Cardiff at 6pm
- Socialist Party public meeting on Thursday 5 July at Rummer Tavern, Duke Street, Cardiff at 7pm
In The Socialist 27 June 2018:
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