Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 48 Number 20, June 30, 2018 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

National Demonstration on the 70th Anniversary of the NHS:

Today, Let Us All take a Stand, Speak Out in Defence of the Right to Health Care!

Today's Celebration and Demonstration has been organised to show the people's opposition to the wrecking of the NHS on the occasion of its 70th anniversary. It has been organised by all those thousands of people in the community and thousands of health workers, including their trade unions and staff associations, that have been fighting to save their local health services and hospitals and safeguard the future of the NHS, in some cases over several decades.

The demonstration is a celebration not just of the founding of the NHS in 1948. It is also a manifestation that people are in action today to safeguard its future. In a modern society, that future must be safeguarded on the basis that health care is a right. The claims of the people on society for all their health care needs must be granted as of right. For such a society, the promotion of good health for everyone must be a number one priority.

The social welfare state as envisaged by Beveridge and Bevan has come and gone. This model of society went into serous crisis in the 1970s. With Margaret Thatcher came the promotion of the ideology of neo-liberalism, with its doctrines of privatisation and so-called "shrinking the state". How far this has come can be seen in the so-called "internal market" in the health service that is premised on GPs, organised in Clinical Commissioning Groups, with the CCGs being run by a governing body, "purchasing" health care from the "providers" of health care. It is reported that Unite the union surveyed the 3,392 CCG board members in 2015 and reported that 513 were directors of private healthcare companies: 140 owned such businesses and 105 carried out external work for them. More than 400 CCG board members were shareholders in such companies.

From a position where hospital and GP services were planned on a national basis, this market-driven backward-looking way of NHS funding has now fragmented health services. The "providers" compete with each other for patients and services as "public" Trusts and private corporations such as Virgin Health Care. Then hospitals and services are deliberately placed in deficit by those responsible for funding them by imposing "efficiency savings" and cuts. This has deepened the crisis and has already closed hundreds of vital health services and thousands of much needed hospital beds.

This crisis in the way the NHS is funded can be seen in the recent statements of Theresa May claiming that her government will increase the NHS budget by £20 billion, only for "stunned military chiefs" immediately to demand that that £20 billion should be given to them for "defence" instead. This shows that government cannot reconcile the archaic tax system with the needs of the people and their well-being. The policy to say that the £20 billion should be funded by raising taxes by that amount is nothing but a pay-the-rich scam.

But today all the health campaigns are coming together to say that the NHS is a vital part of the well-being of the people in a socialised economy. It is a fact that has to be recognised and not diminished to one of being a burden to the economy because the population is "ageing" and so forth. Making it a burden suggests that individuals are the problem and have to pay. This can be seen for example in the cross-party committees at Westminster that are encouraging the government to increase taxes for people over 40 for social care and so on.

Today, we have to fight for a society that recognises that health workers create value in the socialised economy. The huge value they produce needs to be claimed by the government in large part from the monopolies and oligopolies that consume and profit from this value in having a healthy workforce. The crisis of NHS funding shows that the NHS cannot be reconciled with such an archaic tax system that does not claim this value. It also cannot be reconciled with the pro-war ambitions of the British ruling elite striving to retain British military interference and carry out wars of aggression with the empire-building aim of making Britain a "leading power" in the world.

So today, in our thousands as people who are in action to safeguard the future of the NHS on its 70th anniversary let us all take a stand and speak out in defence of the right to health care. Let us step up the fight to oppose the wrecking of the health service, and fight for public oversight and for the right of health workers and professionals, and the people as a whole, to set the agenda and be empowered as the decision-makers.


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