The Socialist 22 July 2020 |
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Fight for the NHS
- Full funding and public ownership needed
- Union action on pay: France shows the way!
Nurses marching for the NHS, photo Paul Mattsson (Click to enlarge)
Roger Davey, chair, Unison union Wiltshire and Avon Health Branch (personal capacity)
To put it in context, the annual budget of NHS England is £134 billion. Management requested an extra £10 billion. The Tory government has pledged just £3 billion.
This is clearly inadequate in dealing with the huge problems now facing the health service. In fact, not only is it a pathetic amount, but much of it will inevitably be absorbed by the profit-hungry private sector.
Meanwhile, NHS workers are pushed to the limit. Even before the coronavirus outbreak, tens of thousands were working eleven or more unpaid extra hours each week!
Overall, hundreds of thousands - 56% of those surveyed - were working at least some additional weekly hours without compensation, according to the NHS Staff Survey. It's certainly more now.
Of course, the NHS has long been in deep trouble after years of austerity and privatisation. There is a chronic shortage of beds, staff and resources. If you combine that with massive cuts to social care and public health, it's clear the NHS was in no fit state to deal with the pandemic.
The consequence is that - although the NHS just about coped with the impact of Covid-19, thanks mainly to the dedication of health workers - the impact on care generally has been catastrophic.
For instance, waiting lists have increased from 4.5 million to eight million since April! The Royal College of Surgeons has said it would take five years to deal with the backlog.
The stark fact is that because of the relentless attacks on the NHS by successive governments, people in their thousands have died and will continue to die unnecessarily.
And not surprisingly, the Tory government is also using Covid to accelerate the privatisation of the NHS. We are continuing to see contracts going to private hospitals to deal with 'elective' care while NHS beds remain empty.
In fact, the Tories are awarding contracts to just about anybody, as long as it's not the NHS, regardless of fitness for the job. A £108 million contract for procurement of PPE has been awarded to a family-run pest control company with just 16 employees!
If the Tories have shown little regard for the NHS as a public service, this also applies to its staff. The recent pay rise excludes many health workers.
In France, thanks to a magnificent, militant campaign, health workers have won an extra €8 billion to fund pay rises! We need to do the same here.
It's only through trade union-led struggle, including industrial action, that we can secure a significant pay rise, full staffing, and decent conditions for workers.
And it's only through that struggle, linked to political action, that we can establish a fully funded, publicly owned and democratically controlled NHS.
"The news that nurses aren't getting a pay rise is a an absolute disgrace. I don't begrudge any worker, and especially fellow key workers, getting more pay. But Tory ministers 'clapped' for all the NHS - yet we're now not worth a pay rise. Sickening! The unions should be organising now for a pay rise worthy of the work put in by nurses and all workers" - Matt, NHS nurse