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