'NHS is taking a battering'
Tony Dyer, March 9, 2016
Last Saturday, I was invited to give a speech at a rally of some 500 people who had turned out to march against the on-going privatisation of the NHS.
The NHS has taken a battering under this Tory government. A Conservative Party that had promised no more “top-down reorganisations” of the NHS had, instead, initiated in 2012 probably the largest top-down reorganisation the NHS has ever seen.
Since then we have seen the increasing privatisation of parts of the NHS with private companies making 5-8 per cent profits from the public funding of our health services.
Money that could, and should, be re-invested back in to the NHS itself for the benefit of all of us. Instead it is being leeched out of the NHS into the hands of profiteers, and often spirited away to tax havens to avoid paying the tax that the rest of us contribute toward a civilised society – a civilised society that includes properly funded health care, available to all, and free at the point of use.
The impact this government has had on the NHS is there for all to see; 35,000 jobs lost from the NHS, 10,000 less hospital beds, 66 A&E or Maternity wards closed or under threat of closure, one in three NHS Walk-in centres closed or downgraded, student nurses' bursary abolished forcing them into debt.
And outside the NHS, the number of people working in health and social care has plummeted by over 100,000 – almost a third – and as a result even more people are turning to the NHS with its increasingly stretched and stressed staff. In a single year alone, visits to hospital increased by 10 per cent.
It is in this context of over-worked staff and increasing privatisation that we should look at the junior doctors strike. Jeremy Hunt, probably the worst health minister this country has ever seen, is not concerned about patient care. If he was, he would heed the voices of the very people operating at the front-line of patient care, the junior doctors themselves.
What Jeremy Hunt is concerned about is making the NHS more palatable to the private healthcare companies which fund and provide a source of income for so many Tory MPs. This is a government of private healthcare, by private healthcare, for private healthcare.
That is why I will be joining the junior doctors on their picket lines today. And that is also why many of my Green Party colleagues, and colleagues from the Labour Party will also be on that picket line.
But it is not just about the junior doctors' strike. The NHS is under-funded and is faced with a funding gap of over £20bn a year. When you compare the proportion of GDP spent on the NHS and compare it with other countries, you find that the UK spends about eight per cent of its GDP on health services, in Germany the figures is 10.5 per cent, in France 12 per cent, and in the United States, the country with the most privatised health system in the world, the figure is a whopping 16 per cent!
Despite the disparities in funding between the UK and the USA, international studies repeatedly show our NHS topping the tables in terms of the quality of the services it provides – whilst the US is usually propping up the bottom. And yet, politicians continue to pursue the course of privatisation that the US has taken.
How long before this government forces the NHS down the league table in pursuit of its obsession with the power of market forces?
The NHS is not a natural environment for market forces – as a result a series of artificial internal markets have been created. The cost to the NHS is considerable – about £4.5bn a year is spent to maintain these artificial markets, with some estimates rising to £10bn a year. Add to that the profits being taken out of the NHS by private companies.
This is why we need to gather support for the NHS Reinstatement Bill which is being presented for its 2nd reading on Friday by Green Party MP Caroline Lucas. The bill calls for the health secretary’s direct accountability for providing a comprehensive health service to be reinstated, ending of the internal market in the NHS and excluding it from the transatlantic trade deal TTIP.
The bill has been backed by Labour, Green Party, SNP and Lib Dem MPs, including now-Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and shadow chancellor John McDonnell, whilst they were still back-bench MPs.
MPs often return to their constituencies on Thursday nights but we need them to stay in London for Friday, March 11th, to do everything they can to make sure the bill is debated, and to vote in favour of the Bill so that it proceeds to the next stage.
Please write to your MP - whatever party she/he belongs to - stating your wish and urging him/her to back the Bill to bring back our NHS in England.
You can find out who your MP is, how to write your letter and get more information on the NHS Reinstatement Bill Group’s website: http://www.nhsbill2015.org/
Please help to ensure that we have a properly funded NHS, free at the point of use, available to all and paid for by progressive taxation where any savings are reinvested back into the NHS.
Tony Dyer is the Green Party candidate for Bristol mayor.
acknowledgements to http://www.bristol247.com/ & william quick