NHS junior doctor heartbeat
NHS junior doctor heartbeat

As the Socialist goes to press, the Royal College of Nursing has strikes planned for 15 and 20 December. Ambulance workers in Unison, Unite and GMB are set to strike on 21 and 28 December too.

Socialist Party fights for:

  • An RPI inflation-proof pay rise for all health and care staff
  • Strike together for the pay rise we need and to kick out the Tories
  • Keir Starmer’s Labour doesn’t speak for us – fight for a new mass workers’ party
  • A fully publicly funded NHS and care system free at the point of use. Scrap prescription charges in England, and dental and all health charges
  • Reverse all privatisations. Scrap the Private Finance initiative and cancel all PFI debts. Bring all outsourced workers and services in-house on permanent contracts
  • Nationalise the private health care sector, care homes, the medical supply industry and pharmaceutical companies – integrate them into the NHS
  • A Socialist NHS – democratically run by elected and accountable committees including service workers and users

Health workers in Northern Ireland strike

Tens of thousands of members of NIPSA, Unison and GMB working in the health service in Northern Ireland walked out together on 12 December. NIPSA Deputy General Secretary, Pádraig Mulholland, who is a member of the Socialist Party’s sister organisation in Northern Ireland – Militant Left – said: “The health service heroes who fought the Covid pandemic are now fighting for the future of our health service. They know this is a fight we cannot afford to lose. Either we win or our health service will continue to degrade and be at the mercy of the money-grabbing profiteers.

“It is time to fight on the key points in this dispute. We must have inflation-busting pay rises for all health service workers and an end to the chronic understaffing that puts lives at risk. We cannot have a decent health service if thousands of posts are vacant and the staff are living in poverty.

“We are calling on all trade unions to rally to this cause. We are calling on all workers to join the fight to defend the health service our predecessors gave us. Workers in all areas and industries are fighting to defend their livelihoods. United action, with all workers fighting together, can ensure we defend public services and build a decent society.”

Strep A, underfunding and profiteering have tragic consequences

Jon Dale, Mansfield Socialist Party

Most children get colds and sore throats at this time of year. Reports of higher than normal rates of Strep A have made parents anxious that these infections could become serious or even fatal.

Strep A is found in most children’s throats and on the skin. It causes 20-30% of sore throats and tonsillitis. Less often, it causes more widespread infection – scarlet fever. Very rarely, it invades the blood to cause sepsis, multi-organ failure and even death.

Recently, there have been 2.3 cases of invasive Strep A per 100,000 children aged one to four, compared with an average 0.5 in pre-pandemic 2017-19. While every child death is tragic, the number dying in England, Wales and Northern Ireland this autumn from Strep A is 18, at the time of writing. Cases of scarlet fever have increased. Other infections, like flu and chickenpox, are also up.

This is probably a rebound from Covid lockdowns, when children had less exposure to these infections so now have reduced immunity to them. However, there could also be other factors involved. Scarlet fever usually goes up in spring, not autumn as this year.


Whatever the reasons for the surge in scarlet fever, parents should not need to worry – it’s easily treated with antibiotics. However, pharmacies are struggling to get supplies and the price has shot up. Amoxicillin from one supplier rose from £2 to £19.36 for a small bottle.

A pharmacist near Brighton said: “My loss this week just on antibiotics is over £3,000. Some wholesalers were charging £11.78 for a bottle and we get reimbursed at £2.08.”

Clearly, there’s profiteering along the supply chain. Penicillin V and Amoxicillin are two of the most widely prescribed and cheapest antibiotics. Both are out of patent, so any pharmaceutical company can make them, but many chose not to because profits are relatively low. Pharmaceutical manufacturers and large wholesalers should be nationalised to provide cheap, reliable and safe medicines.

There are also other reasons why parents are understandably worried. Getting an appointment with a GP can be difficult. A tired and stressed GP is more likely to miss the one ill child among dozens with ‘normal’ sore throats and colds. And the few who are seriously ill need hospital care, where services are buckling under the strain.

Last month five-year old Yusuf Mahmud Nazir was examined at Rotherham General Hospital. He was distressed, struggling to breathe and could not swallow. There were 93 children in A&E, no empty beds and one doctor. Yusuf was sent home and sadly died a few days later in Sheffield Children’s Hospital. Tragic events like these are the inevitable consequence of Tory and Labour underfunding and privatisation. Its why we have to fight for a fully funded, public NHS.

‘Private parasites deserve no air time!’

Socialist Party member Sarah Sachs-Eldridge responds to BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme.

I would like to register a complaint about the extended interview with a mobile GP which ended at 7.20am this morning [Thursday 8 December]. This amounted to an advertisement for a private GP company profiteering out of the underfunding and privatisation of the NHS that has taken place under Tory, Blair and Brown governments. The approach to the interview was the opposite to any tiny airtime you give trade unionists defending the NHS from these kind of parasites. At no point was the question of profit from health raised.

The Today programme appears to be a platform for the Tory campaign to undermine confidence in the NHS, by pointing to private so-called solutions rather than also giving a voice to those who fight for it to be funded, and for all the private profiteers to be kicked out.

In October, the Guardian reported, for example, that “NHS trusts spent close to a half a billion pounds on interest charges from private companies for private finance initiative (PFI) contracts last year – equivalent to the salaries of 15,000 newly qualified nurses.”

It reported that: “Hospital groups spent £2.3 billion on legacy PFI projects in 2020-21, of which just under £1 billion went on costs for essential services such as cleaning and maintenance. A third of the remaining PFI spend – £457 million – went purely on paying off interest charges.”

The trade union, health worker, campaigner and socialist voices fighting to end this scandalous profiteering are not given the time this side of the debate about our NHS deserves, and therefore the Today programme is massively biased.

I look forward to hearing from those trade unionists who have led successful campaigns against privatisation like at Bart’s Hospital Trust in east London.

Victory to the strikes!

Ambulance workers speak out

“We are on our knees, there aren’t enough of us and the calls keep coming.”

“We are letting people down. People who need our service are waiting hours just to speak to us, and even longer for help.”

“Something has got to give. The hospitals and A&E have been overwhelmed, but now we’re going under too.”