Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 48 Number 13, May 7, 2018 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

What Does Government's Neo-liberal Agenda Have
in Store for the NHS on its 70th Anniversary?

Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index : ShareThis

What Does Government's Neo-liberal Agenda Have in Store for the NHS on its 70th Anniversary?

May Day Events:
May Day, International Day of Working Class Unity and Struggle

MAY DAY 2018:
A Call to Build the New

What Does Government's Neo-liberal Agenda Have
in Store for the NHS on its 70th Anniversary?

In the run up to the 70th anniversary of the NHS on July 5 this year, Theresa May announced before Easter that she pledged to bring forward a long-term funding plan for the NHS in response to growing concerns that key health services are being overwhelmed by rising demand. She said, "This year and in advance of next year's spending review I do want to come forward with a long-term plan. I want that to be done in conjunction with NHS leaders and provide a multiyear funding settlement consistent with our fiscal rules and balanced approach." Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has appealed to his colleagues for ideas, promising in a letter to all Tory MPs that solutions for the NHS and proposals on social care will be settled by the summer. It was expected his Green Paper would appear before the summer, "to jump-start debate" on where future social care funding should come from.

Ahead of this Green Paper, the House of Commons Communities and Local Government Committee and the Health Committee have been taking evidence on the long-term funding of adult social care. The scope of this short inquiry is said to be "to identify funding reforms which will command broad consensus". As an indication of where this is leading, Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England, told the inquiry on April 24 that in his view the homes of pensioners' should be used to fund social care rather than any major tax rises on those of working age. It is significant that these are presented as the two alternatives. Simon Stevens cast his proposal in terms of "fairness", indicating that pensioners' homes should not be sold until after their death to recoup the costs of social care, thus attempting to distance the proposal from that of Theresa May for a so-called "dementia tax" in her ill-fated election manifesto. Simon Stevens put it this way to the inquiry: "I think there are big questions about intergenerational fairness and what the right way to raise resources is, given the relatively advantaged position of my parents' generation relative to my children's generation." He suggested that any "sustainable" solution would make use of an alleged £1.5 trillion "accumulated housing wealth".[1]

In addition, it was reported that a cross-party group of MPs including former ministers, is again urging the government to convert National Insurance into a specific tax for the NHS. Following this it was said that the Health Secretary is reported to be be open to the idea of a specific tax for the NHS. The reports have also said there is a "cross party back-bench revolution" linked to whether a new "centre party may emerge". MPs who are loyal to Jeremy Corbyn have distanced themselves from any cross party consensus and Corbyn himself has maintained that health care is a right in a modern society.

One thing which is certain is that these speculative announcements, whether for bigger financial commitment to the NHS or a "cross party consensus" on how the NHS and social care should be funded, are all being driven by the government's neo-liberal agenda in health with no guarantees that the right to health care will be guaranteed and even maintained free at the point of use.

Under present arrangements health authorities are no longer responsible for the health care of the population, nationally, regionally and locally. Councils are no longer able to fund social care out of their decimated budgets. The response of government is to dictate further the transformation of the health and social care services into a corporate-led system. The present system poses as a GP-led system set up under the government's chief commissioner NHS England with its network of clinical commissioners (CCGs). It is being further transformed with newly proposed "Integrated Care Systems", previously called "Sustainability and Transformation Plans" (STPs).

For example, the Health Service Journal[2] reported last month that Northumberland, Tyne & Wear and North Durham; Darlington, Teesside, Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby; and West, North and East Cumbria were in talks to become an integrated care system by April 2019. It would cover a population of 3.2 million. The rationale is supposedly to "make difficult decisions" about and provide a "mechanism for managing financial risk" over a vast area of the northern region and part of north Yorkshire. Such organisations are being set up, not to plan and take up responsibility for health and social care services to meet the needs of local populations, but to manage the health market in the interests of competing public and private corporate organisations and to dictate the rationing of these services far away from any control by local populations. This puts aside any responsibility to actually provide and guarantee access to acute, community, mental health and social care services for every region and locality.

This agenda which under present arrangements is already reducing safe access to vital health services for whole swathes of the population in England is being further pursued in the present deconstruction of local District Hospital acute services and the local GP services across England. This is the "long-term plan" to switch funding into a community service that is intended to be predominately dominated by the private sector companies leaving acute services mainly provided by public Trusts chronically underfunded and forced to compete with each other for funds and clinical staff in order to provide acute, community and mental health services.

This is what is behind the increasing crisis in the NHS which is being compounded by hospital service takeovers and downgrading of services, adding to loss of acute services and thousands of much needed beds in many local hospitals. It is also behind increasing contracts given to private companies to manage GP and community services, hospital admissions and private online GP services that will de-register more and more patients and funding from the local GP system restricting further access to local GPs.

What has to be emphasised as we approach this 70th anniversary of the NHS is that society has to have a plan that recognises that health care is a right and that right must be guaranteed by government. The NHS is a vital part of the socialised economy, that needs to operate at the highest level in preventing illness, providing health care and when needed immediate emergency care, to the whole population and cannot be subject to the vagaries of any corporate neo-liberal profit making agenda.

Also, health as a right cannot be planned on the basis of excluding people by any form of insurance payment whether public, or private. Health care is the claim of all on the economy, on the value that is added to society by the working class and people. Health workers provide vital and accessible health services to all and in doing so create value in the socialised economy by curing people when sick and injured and keeping healthy the human resources of society and all those who live and work in it. This new value is consumed by big corporations in contracting to employ the labour power of a healthy workforce. This is value which should not simply be expropriated by them but should be claimed by the government as value that can then be used to fund the NHS as it should be.

In preparing for the 70th anniversary of the NHS, health workers and the people as a whole as they fight in every part of the country to safeguard the future of the NHS need to discuss how to build this fight for a new NHS. Such an NHS must at the very least not exist as a pay-the-rich enterprise, and must meet the claims of all for health care as of right. Ultimately, to fight for the right to health care to be guaranteed it must be recognised that the decision-making power of the working people is required over society and its economy.


[1] For further details of this inquiry and the evidence presented, see

[2] Health Service Journal "Three STPs to share leader and form integrated care system", By Joe Gammie, April 10 2018

Article Index

May Day Events

May Day, International Day of Working Class Unity and Struggle

London underground train workers

Workers and progressive forces in Britain celebrated May Day in the period April 30 to May 5, leading up to the May Day holiday of May 7. In so doing, they joined working people internationally raising their demands for their rights and interests and for a new society, which May First represents. Under the anti-social offensive of this neo-liberal capitalist system that prevails in Britain and throughout the imperialist system of states, the workers are affirming that there is an alternative, that they can do better, that they can have the confidence gained through their knowledge and experience at work to take charge of the economy and the governance of society. In sending their revolutionary greetings to the working people of all lands, they are affirming that they are capable of solving the problems step-by-step in society, and relying on all their own efforts can build a bright future for humanity.

April 30

A May Day Rally was held in South Tyneside, an annual event which has been organised for many years without fail. The chair set the scene, saying that the working class adopts a truly internationalist perspective, and affirms the dignity of labour. There were speeches from Unison and Unite the union, particularly opposing the neo-liberal attacks on the NHS. And the entertainment and food were declared excellent.

May 1

London May Day was celebrated by thousands of trade unionists, international communities, students and political parties and organisation. The march assembled on Clerkenwell Green, as customary, outside the historic Marx Memorial Library, which held an open day, particularly significant on the 200th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx. In glorious weather, with many red flags and colourful banners, the march snaked through central London, attracting the attention and support of many office and other workers, to a rally in Trafalgar Square. Contingents included those from RMT, ASLEF, TSSA, Unite, BECTU, Unison, PCS, CWU, POA and the FBU. The contingent from RCPB(ML) marched with the banner, "Britain Urgently Needs an Anti-War Government".

The rally at Trafalgar Square was addressed by speakers detailing some of the key struggles that they were involved in. It was jointly chaired by representatives of the Greater London Association of Trades Councils (GLATUC) and the South East Regional TUC (SERTUC).

May 5

The Newcastle May Day event

The Birmingham Trades Union Council (BTUC) organised a successful May Day event, attracting almost 40 visitors. The event addressed issues from the struggles of the Irish people, as well as the fight to safeguard the public character of the NHS, and the movements in solidarity with workers elsewhere affirming their right to be the decision-makers. There was a high level of questions from the audience, enhancing the worthwhile nature of the event.

The Newcastle May Day event was a march of many activists and trade unionists, together with political organisations. The colourful parade, led by the Blackworth Colliery Band, started in Exhibition Park and made its way to the Monument in the city centre. It was organised by Newcastle TUC under the slogan: Rise Like Lions!

The keynote speakers at the rally included North West Durham MP and Shadow Minister Laura Pidcock, who talked about the Labour Party's plans for reversing what was described as the Government's "twin attack" on trade union rights and social security. Her speech was very well received. Other speakers included representatives of the UCU and the Northern TUC.

Article Index

MAY DAY 2018

A Call to Build the New

Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist)

May Day is the time for the workers to affirm their own programme. Society at this time is faced with a multitude of problems. These are problems for solution, but experience has long-since shown how the ruling elite are utterly incapable of finding any solutions. It is also increasingly evident that none of the arrangements in society function so as to resolve any issues. The need is for the New. The working class is that force that is able to lead the way forward; it is the workers who must shoulder their social responsibility and take the lead in transforming society.

The ruling elite are unable to provide the rights of all with a guarantee. They serve only private interests and refuse to subordinate these interests to the general interests of society. These private interests have become so monopolised and all-encompassing that increasingly nothing is permitted to stand in their way. Public authority and all the arrangements of civil society are being destroyed. The ruling elite are attempting to concentrate all powers in the hands of the executive to implement whatever they decide without fear of being brought to account.

The capital-centric outlook of the ruling elite denigrates workers as a cost of production. This elite resorts to straightforward imposition to deny workers any say over who can claim what out of the very value that their work has created by the application of their labour power to the raw materials of Mother Earth.

The private interests of the monopolies and oligopolies stand in ever-sharper contradiction to the socialised nature of the economy. For the working class, on the other hand, this socialised economy lies at the very essence of their being. It is the working class who must, on behalf of the whole of society, fight vigorously to defend the rights of all, rights which they possess simply as rights by virtue of being human. They can have no illusions that any other force will take the lead in transforming society.

And in conditions of increased contention by desperate falling and fallen empires seeking in vain to make themselves great again - such as "Global Britain", with its aggressive interference in the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere - the working class and people have the urgent mission to deprive the ruling elite of their power to wage war. The peoples of Scotland and Wales must be empowered to pursue their nation-building projects on a modern basis in which the people are the sovereign power.

The need for an anti-war government is not a mere question of policy, but of democracy itself. It is part and parcel of the need for pro-social governance in general, governance with the guaranteeing of the rights of all as its central aim. Starting with the stand that such warmongering is not in our name, we call specifically for all to take up the crucial work to build committees based on the necessity for an anti-war government.

May Day is a time to uphold the high road of civilisation. It is a time for the workers in Britain to affirm their proletarian internationalism, their common cause with the workers of all lands, which is the New.

The workers need no condescending saviours. They are capable of doing better. The situation must be turned around. In affirming their independent political programme, they must strengthen the movement for their own empowerment, bring into play their numbers, organisation and class consciousness. And as a necessary part of this, the political party of the working class must be built.

The workers are already engaged in many just battles in defence of their rights, in defence of health and safety at work, in fighting for decent pensions and affirming their claims on the value they produce for society, in proudly upholding the dignity of labour. The working class inscribes on its banner the defence of the rights of all, its proletarian internationalism, an anti-war government and an economy which serves the well-being of society and harmonises collective interests with the general interests of that society.

The working class opposes the slogan of the ruling elite, which is to entrench the Old and moribund, with the call to build the New. In this year of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx, who affirmed that the old relations must be replaced by new relations in a world of socialised humanity, let the working class affirm that this is the problem they are taking up for solution, defending the rights of all and building the New!

Long Live May Day!
All Out to Build the New!

Article Index

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