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13 September 2017

The Socialist inbox

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'Valuable community assets'

The Labour council in Bury, Greater Manchester, is closing ten out of its 14 libraries. So far, so typical, you might say.

But they made the mistake of asking people if they had ideas about turning former libraries into "a valuable community asset" - like they weren't already? Hundreds of people flooded the council's Twitter account.

Asam Yasin was first to reply. He suggested: "A book shop. One that lets you take books for free for a period of time as long as you return them. With a fee if you don't."

Another commented, tongue in cheek: "Is that a library, Asam?" To which came the response - "No, no. It's a shop. If you call it a library they'll only close it down again..."

Steve Fletcher wrote: "A book/magazine short-term lend-and-return-type facility sounds good. Could do with a snappier name, I suppose."

They got a lot of other witty responses. Unfortunately it's no laughing matter for the residents of Bury, especially for the disabled users of the specially adapted library at Whitefield, which is one of those slated for closure.

Come on Jeremy, when are you going to call a halt to cuts that are making Labour councils a laughing stock?

Paul Gerrard, Bury

Asthma attacked

I was recently watching the film 'The Lorax' (based on the book by Dr Seuss) with my five-year-old daughter. The main theme is the plight of the environment as a result of the search for profits.

However, another aspect of the story was of particular interest to me. Due to the destruction of trees, residents of the fictional town in the story need to purchase their air - from a sinister tycoon-type businessman who has systematically monopolised this industry - in order to breathe.

But as an asthma sufferer, what is best described as a 'breath tax' is already a dangerous and potentially costly reality.

Britain has some of the highest asthma rates in Europe. Asthma UK says there are around 5.4 million people in the UK with asthma: 4.3 million adults - one in every 12 - and 1.1 million children - one in every eleven.

Asthma isn't just some innocuous ailment that kids used as an excuse to get out of doing PE at school. It is an incurable disease affecting the lungs and airways, with the most severe symptoms manifesting through 'attacks' and leaving the sufferer with a terrifying inability to breathe.

Every ten seconds someone is having a potentially life-threatening asthma attack in the UK. 185 people are admitted to hospital because of asthma attacks every day, and a child is admitted every 20 minutes.

In 2015 (the most recent data available) 1,468 people died as a result of the disease. That means that every day, the lives of four families were devastated by the death of a loved one due to an asthma attack. Outrageously, many of these are preventable.

Unlike in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, those with this debilitating disease in England have to pay for their non-emergency treatment by way of prescription charges. This can include steroid-based medications, usually in the form of preventative and emergency inhalers.

Prescription charges are currently 8.60. Some people have several prescriptions and sufferers have gone without collecting their medication for this reason.

This 'breath tax' is a direct result of the economic system in which we currently live, one of profit over the needs of ordinary people. The privatisation that has been systematically introduced into the NHS, coupled with the monopolistic nature of the pharmaceutical companies, means that vital funds are siphoned off into the pockets of a few individuals.

Technology such as 'smart inhalers', health apps and remote monitoring already exist and have the potential to improve the care delivered by healthcare professionals. They could also improve self-management for the 5.4 million people with asthma in the UK.

Under a socialist economic system, the NHS and big pharmaceutical companies would be publicly owned and run under the democratic control and management of staff and service users. Planned production could quickly roll out new technologies like this on a mass scale, and ensure the healthcare needs of all are met.

What the bosses currently take as profits could be reinvested to make treatments free, pay healthcare workers a real living wage, and expand technological research and development.

Carl Harper, Peterborough



http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/26131