Striking Junior Doctors. Photo: Paul Mattsson
Striking Junior Doctors. Photo: Paul Mattsson

Fully fund our NHS

Kick out health racketeers

Heather Rawling, Leicester Socialist Party

“Steve Barclay where are you!” “Rishi Sunak you’re so tight, junior doctors have to strike!” were just some of the chants on a lively picket line in Leicester. Up and down the country junior doctors are striking against the government’s refusal to negotiate a decent pay offer. Nobody wants to strike, least of all those responsible for treating patients. But what choice do they have?

Junior doctors save lives every day for £14 an hour, less if they are paying back a student loan. They are standing on picket lines up and down the country in a fight to save an NHS in a critical condition. Doctors outside Leicester Royal Infirmary left reporters in no doubt about their determination to fight for their pay claim.

But they also made it clear that unless they win their struggle, the NHS may not survive. Inside hospitals, doctors and nurses are being stretched to breaking point. Recruitment of staff to the NHS, including doctors and nurses, is in crisis and many are leaving because there is too much stress for too little pay, with too little resources.

Working-class people understand that the NHS is in jeopardy and NHS workers have been striking for its future. Their struggle is our struggle. The noise of horns blaring as cars, buses, ambulances, and lorries went past was loud and clear.

And the money is there to pay the junior doctors and other NHS staff. £457 million was spent by the NHS in 2020-21, just to pay interest on Private Finance Initiative (PFI) loans alone.  The Socialist Party says cancel all PFI debt.

£11.5 billion of outsourced contracts were given to private companies between 2013 and 2020 – over 6% of total NHS spending. These companies are only interested in making a profit, not our health or health workers themselves. During the pandemic, the Tory government paid private hospitals an extra 25% to treat NHS patients. Yet 43% less healthcare was delivered by them than the year before the pandemic!

We can’t look to the Labour Party to defend the health service. Labour leader Keir Starmer and Labour shadow health secretary Wes Streeting in government would resume Blair’s policies, further opening the NHS for big business. We need a new mass workers’ party, fighting for a fully funded NHS, to reverse all privatisation and outsourcing, to nationalise the pharmaceutical, medical and all companies profiteering from the NHS under democratic workers’ and community control.