The final leg of the 999 March for the NHS reaches London on Saturday September 6 and all supporters of the People’s Assembly who can make it are urged to attend. The march has been a great initiative, retracing the steps of the Jarrow marchers of the 1930s as people throughout Britain expressed their determination to defend the NHS.
The struggle to defend the NHS and to protect it from privatisation and cuts represents everything that the People’s Assembly Against Austerity stands for. The NHS is a hugely popular publicly-owned health provider which has meant generations have grown up without the fear of an illness they cannot afford, or a medical bill that will bankrupt them. It is also a model of how we all benefit from immigration and multiculturalism.
The supporters of austerity in this government and beyond want to change all that. They argue that the NHS is ‘unaffordable’, as medical bills rise and the population grows older. Their answer is to privatise the NHS in a piecemeal way and starve the rest of it of funds. Waiting times, including waiting times for cancer treatment, have never risen so fast as they have in the last 6 months.
These arguments have nothing to do with saving costs. The enemies of the NHS have as their model the US healthcare system of private hospitals and insurance-based payment. It is the most expensive health system in the world because so many different firms have to take their cut in the form of profits. The US spends about 16% of GDP on healthcare and Britain spends about 9% for almost exactly the same health outcomes.
As the waiting lists show, the NHS does have problems. The staff are chronically underpaid and equipment is sometimes poor. The NHS needs more investment, not cuts.
The funds are easily available. The obsession with private providers didn’t start with the government- they have simply taken it to a new extreme. There is a huge amount of money wasted in the NHS by providing hand-outs to private firms. The biggest scandal is in PFI (Private Finance Initiative), but there are many others including the ways that private drug manufacturers and suppliers milk the NHS budget.
Ending the tens of billions in subsidies to the private firms that leech off the NHS would provide us with the money needed to invest in it: Decent pay and conditions for nurses, health workers and doctors, and decent facilities and service for all of us.
Come and join the rest of the People’s March for the NHS! Join us at the rally on September 6!
- Assemble: 1:30pm, Saturday 6 September, Red Lion Square, WC1 (Holborn Tube) >> March to Trafalgar Square
- Can you volunteer? The People's Assembly will be helping with stewarding this part of the march. If you can help, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org