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From: The Socialist issue 1030, 20 February 2019: Tories out, Blairites out

Search site for keywords: NHS - Workers - Health - Government - Privatisation - Hospital

NHS crisis deepens: Workers' and community action can save our health service

Marching to save the NHS, photo by Mary Finch

Marching to save the NHS, photo by Mary Finch   (Click to enlarge)

Matt, NHS Nurse

The news that A&E waiting times have hit the worst level since records began is yet further proof of the ongoing crisis in our NHS.

Despite a milder winter, less norovirus and fewer recorded flu cases, NHS trusts have dipped below 85% of patients being seen - then admitted or discharged - within four hours. The figure gets worse in 'Type 1 centres' (24-hour A&E departments) with nearly one in four failing to meet the four-hour target.

Chronic underfunding, crisis levels of staffing and privatisation have created a toxic cocktail of disaster for patients and staff within the NHS.

The brutal robbery of funding from local councils by the Tory government has seen social care budgets slashed, with patients remaining in hospital awaiting care packages. This results in hospital beds being filled by patients who do not require acute hospital care, creating a backlog that sees patients left on stretchers strewn across A&E corridors up and down the country.

Councils have a duty to fight the cuts and defend the most vulnerable in society. The Socialist Party calls for councils to set no-cuts budgets, while fighting to build a mass struggle to win the necessary funding from government.

The NHS, despite the underfunding and the problems that causes, remains a jewel in the crown of the British working class. Fought for by previous generations of workers, the NHS wasn't handed to us by the ruling class but was hard won through struggle.

Since its formation in 1948 the Tories and their friends and backers in the capitalist class have sought to undermine its existence - committed instead to a profit-driven, exclusive private healthcare model. But as Nye Bevan, architect of the NHS, famously said: "The NHS will last as long as there are folk with the faith to fight for it".

Successes

On a local level we've seen successful campaigns in recent years, such as saving from closure Glenfield heart unit in Leicester and Chatsworth rehabilitation unit in Mansfield.

Also, trade unionists taking industrial action have stopped the introduction of a 'wholly owned subsidiary' - ie privatisation - in Mid Yorks NHS trust; Tees, Esk and Wear Valley NHS trust; and Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS trust.

Socialist Party members have played important roles in these campaigns.

Despite these incredible victories at a local level, the national trade union leaderships have been deafeningly quiet on the issue of taking action over the NHS crisis. Yet the 2015-16 junior doctors' strikes showed the strength of public support for the NHS and its staff.

A coordinated campaign of action - including strikes - from the health trade unions, together with a national demonstration along with community campaigns to demand increased funding for the NHS and scrapping privatisation; and a call for a general election to return a Corbyn-led Labour government committed to socialist policies, could give a huge confidence boost to both NHS workers and patients, and begin to tackle the crisis in our health service.

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Coronavirus crisis - 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.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • 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.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our special coronavirus appeal.

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