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From The Socialist newspaper, 24 October 2018

Health services in meltdown - fight to save our NHS

Save our NHS, photo Mary Finch

Save our NHS, photo Mary Finch   (Click to enlarge)

ZoŽ, NHS junior doctor

In the last two years, infant mortality rates in England and Wales have risen for the first time in over a century. Shocking research by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has predicted that infant mortality rates will be 140% higher than those of similar countries in 12 years if this disturbing trend continues.

Unfortunately these new predictions, although shocking, are not a surprise. Years of austerity under Coalition and Tory governments has resulted in cuts to vital public services, leading to a rise in poverty and decline in living conditions for ordinary people.

The NHS has been one of the hardest hit, with dozens of A&Es closed or downgraded since 2010. Shockingly, almost half of all maternity units were forced to shut temporarily during 2017, turning pregnant women away.

As an NHS doctor I see first-hand the impact that vicious Tory cuts have had on our health service. Every single day our beds are full. We're short on staff and patients are constantly being shuffled around the hospital (often onto wards not specialised in patients' conditions) in order to make room for the many sick people waiting in A&E.

NHS staff are working hours of overtime and missing their breaks to plug these gaps. But morale is low, staff are tired.

Of course it is not only the brutal cuts to the NHS that have led to this rise in infant mortality. The descent of more and more families into poverty, fuelled by the rise in zero-hour contracts and the roll out of universal credit, has seen more children born into families that cannot afford food or heating.

The fact that infant mortality is increasing in 2018, in one of the richest countries in the world, due to conscious decisions made by this government, is deplorable. Ordinary people are rightly furious and willing to fight back.

Coordinated action

Earlier this year, staff at Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Trust won a major victory against privatisation through a series of strikes. Likewise, health workers at Mid Yorkshire Health NHS Trust also defeated the outsourcing of their jobs by threatening strike action. Coordinated action between patients and staff at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary has also seen major gains in halting the closure of large parts of the hospital.

This kind of coordinated action between staff, patients and the wider public plays an incredibly important role in the fight to save our NHS. However, to really reverse the damage that Tory cuts have done to our health service, we need to see mass action across the country. Demonstrations are important - but ultimately we must bring together staff across the public sector for coordinated strike action.

United action such as this could bring this weak and wobbly government to its knees and put an end to the cuts and privatisation that are crippling our NHS.

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Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
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In The Socialist 24 October 2018:

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