Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 53 Number 7, March 8, 2023 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

SOS NHS National Demonstration

National Demonstration in Support of Health Workers and Safeguarding the Future of the NHS

On Saturday, March 11, thousands of people will be demonstrating in London in support of health workers and safeguarding the future of the NHS. The demonstration is being organised and mobilised by SOSNHS, which includes many organisations such as Keep Our NHS Public and Health Campaigns Together, as well as health trade unions and most of the trade union movement.

The organisers say: "This is a national emergency. The NHS staff shortage is now at 132,000 vacancies, waiting lists and ambulance wait times have never been higher. Government could invest properly in health but over the last decade and more, we've seen it doesn't have the political will to do so. Instead it turns to private sector providers who have failed the NHS time and again, wasting tens of billions during the pandemic. We need change now."

Explaining the stand of the demonstration, SOSNHS says: "To save lives, we need emergency funds now to make up for an annual deficit of around £35bn. We must recruit and retain more frontline staff and pay them properly. In future we need a return to a fully publicly funded and provided national health service, protected from private companies who put profit before patients. The Health and Care Act addresses none of these problems. It will not put an end to contracts going to the private sector, draining resources from the NHS. Nor will pie-in-the-sky ideas like so-called 'virtual wards'. The truth is this Government wants the NHS to fail."

"The three demands of SOSNHS are:
1. Emergency funding to save a struggling NHS
2. Invest in a fully publicly owned NHS & guarantee free healthcare for future generations
3. Pay staff properly: without fair pay, staffing shortages will cost lives"

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The government is quick to blame everyone and everything but themselves for the current crisis that they have created in the NHS. Keep Our NHS Public tweeted about the demonstration: "We stand with all NHS staff forced to take strike action in order to protect the service from further damage and demand the government changes course and finds the will to do what's right for both staff and patients. We demand the government fixes the crisis in our NHS!"

The demonstration comes in a period of building organised strikes and struggles of the working class and people from railway workers, health workers, education workers, civil services and many others to defend their pay and conditions and the services they provide. Already, the government has been forced to agree to negotiations with the trade unions in many instances including the health service, whilst at the same time trying to buy time to launch further attacks on trade union rights of the workers. For example, on January 9, Unite, representing ambulance workers, reported that Health Secretary Steve Barclay told them that they would need to "justify" a pay rise through "productivity" using this insult as an obstacle to the reality that health workers are today earning thousands of pounds a year less in real terms than they did in 2010 due to frozen wages, or low pay increases amidst rising inflation.

Also, the demonstration comes when people in every area are continuing to build the fight to defend their health and other services. This is all part of the whole movement of the working class and people that Enough is Enough! The demonstration is part of the people setting their sights on the goal of being in control of their own lives and the health, education and other public services that meet their needs.

Revealed in the demands of the demonstration and the reason it is taking place at this time is the need of the times for democratic renewal where the people make the decisions on these vital questions that effect the future of the NHS and that of society. It is why nurses are forced to take such unprecedented strike actions to confront the government who refuse to stop championing the rich. It is the people's programme to stop paying the rich, and that instead the wealth created by all of society should be invested in the peace and the social well-being of all. The time is now for working people to strengthen their organisation, stand firm and speak out in their own name, with their own outlook and programme as events unfold.


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