As the NHS approaches its 70th birthday on July 5, there is plenty for us to celebrate and defend.
Despite 30 years of repeated attempts by government “reforms” to fragment and distort it, and to divert a growing share of the NHS budget into the co ers of pro t-seeking private companies, it remains at core what it was in 1948: the world’s rst universal, publicly-funded health care system, delivering care on the basis of clinical need, not ability to pay. It employs over 1 million well- trained, dedicated sta who daily show their commitment to the values of the NHS as a public service. And, despite widespread misconceptions that those rich enough can buy themselves an equivalent service privately, the NHS is the only provider of emergency and trauma care, the provider of the vast majority of all forms of elective treatment, and the only service that does not pick and choose its patients.
The tiny private sector, with its tiny hospitals are only interested in simple elective operations – and depend for their existence on the NHS training sta , lling empty private beds with NHS-funded pateitns, and providing intensive care and treatment of complex cases. Of course the NHS, and thequality of care it can deliver, has been damaged by eight years of e ectively frozen funding since 2010, and before that by a succession of ideologically driven neoliberal policies that have sought to break it up into competing units, outsource and privatise support services and clinical care, privatise the provision of capital (PFI) and maximise the openings for grasping private companies at home and abroad.
Performance on all fronts has been falling, capacity reduced to well below equivalent health services elsewhere, sta ng levels reduced to levels that run high risks of service failure, sta pay frozen below in ation since 2010, training of new sta hit by scrapping bursaries, and the NHS itself in England repeatedly reorganised, top-down, into more secretive, unaccountable units. Nor is it at all reassuring now to hear Theresa May, whose party and government have repeatedly lied and deceived the public on the levels of funding they were providing, promise a new NHS ‘long term funding plan’ – possibly nanced through an extension of regressive taxation through National Insurance.
But the fact May has to pose as a supporter of the NHS, the fact that privatisation has been restricted in scope and many local plans for cuts in service have been blocked or delayed for years at a time indicates that campaigners are having an impact: if we fight we can win. It’s partly because of the giant protest on March 4 last year, called and organised by Health Campaigns Together and People’s Assembly, that May could not secure the majority that would have let her pass new legislation for even more “reforms”. So it’s important we build a massive show of strength on June 30 in London – to celebrate and defend a service many of us literally can’t live without. let’s step up the pressure. Be there; join us, and bring your banners – and a smile: it will be big!