Unison members on strike in the NHS. Photo: Andy Beadle
Unison members on strike in the NHS. Photo: Andy Beadle

Charlie Kennedy, ICU nurse in the NHS

It is the 75th birthday of the NHS, but it is closer to disappearing into history than ever before.

Throughout my time in healthcare I have learnt a lot about the struggles of the NHS. The NHS workforce projections for 2022 predicted a 38,000 shortage of nurses alone. The British Medical Association states that we need 46,000 doctors just to be at the average number of doctors per 1,000 inhabitants among developed European countries.

We are seeing the standards of care continue to fall as funding is cut short and staff are under pressure, with higher and higher patient workloads. By December 2022, A&E waiting times had skyrocketed to at least four hours for 50% of people. The NHS is in crisis, and the only way to address this is to organise for substantive change.

Nursing and medical education needs to be free of charge, and living costs should be supported with a fair and inflation-adjusted bursary. This will encourage more workers to train for NHS jobs and help solve the staffing crisis.

The pay for NHS workers needs to be increased to at least match inflation rates and previous loss of pay. By doing so, we will retain more NHS staff as well as encourage new professionals to train up. The pension system needs to be updated to provide more security in the long term for NHS workers and ensure that workers are not left behind after they retire.

A focus needs to be placed on improving GP services by offering incentives for doctors to train in family care and creating more nationalised practices rather than wholly relying on privately funded practices.

And, importantly, the funding for NHS trusts needs to have a large overhaul, focused on giving hospitals the equipment and resources they need to run effective and safe services, under democratic control.

Neither the Tories nor Starmer’s Labour Party are offering policies to save the NHS. The only way to secure a lasting future is to fight for socialist change, and that includes the building of a new mass workers’ party as part of that struggle.