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NHS funding crisis: Tory 'super-plan' is a super-con!
Theresa May has been trumpeting an increase in spending on the NHS and a ten-year 'super-plan' for NHS England. But this is not what it seems.
For a start, the "extra" billions promised - reaching an extra £20 billion a year by 2023 - is actually less than the increases in spending before the Tories' cruel austerity policies really kicked in. Funding increases used to be about 4% a year, this works out at just over 3% - barely enough for the NHS to stand still.
If you bear in mind that hospitals are missing every target - for A&E waiting times, cancer treatment and routine operations - that increase will be rapidly eaten up. And if you consider that many hospitals are sinking under crippling 'debts' to the big construction companies from rip-off Private Finance Initiative (PFI) schemes, this is even less impressive.
There are about 100,000 vacancies for NHS staff at the moment, so the existing staff are having to struggle to keep the system going. How can the proposed improvements in things like cancer diagnosis, maternity care and mental health treatment be delivered without a real increase in spending on training, wages and recruitment?
The biggest gap in all this is social care. The government was supposed to publish a discussion paper on this some months ago but this potato is obviously too hot for them.
Local authorities are having their budgets cut. But rather than confront the government they try to cut what they pay for social care. Care homes rely increasingly on very low-paid workers and are going out of business.
The result is that elderly and vulnerable people end up in hospital for extended periods of time and the waiting lists grow.
Much of this ten-year plan talks about important public health measures like tackling obesity and helping people to give up smoking. But these are the types of services which local authorities are already cutting.
Vandalising the NHS has been one of the government's main objectives - they just see it as a source of profit for their big business backers. And what else are they going to cut to pay for this crude attempt to divert attention from the Brexit fiasco?
There is no time to lose:
- Reverse all cuts and privatisation to guarantee the needed funds.
- Labour councils should stand up to the government and refuse to implement cuts, including to social care.
- Urgently train more NHS staff and pay them all a real living wage.
- Nationalise all the big companies leeching off the NHS, cancel the PFI 'debts'.
- Run the NHS under democratic workers' control as a real public service.
In The Socialist 9 January 2019:
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