The fight is still on to save our NHS

Holly Johnston, Sheffield Socialist Party, RCN nursing rep and NHS workers say no (personal capacity)

The battle for pay in the NHS is set to escalate.

 Junior doctors in England are striking for five days on 13-18 July. Consultant doctors will follow with a 48-hour strike starting on the 20 July, closely followed by members of the Society of Radiographers on 25-27 July, with no sign of talks at present.

Unite members who rejected the recent pay deal from the government are being balloted at some NHS trusts throughout England to expand its industrial action. Unite members at Guys and St Thomas’ in London are striking for 24 hours on 13 July, and workers at Yorkshire Ambulance Service will on 14 July, between 3pm and 10pm. Outsourced GMB members continue striking in south London.

These strikes make it clear. The issues around pay and conditions in the NHS haven’t gone away. The lump-sum payment received in June, granted as a result of strike action, has been quickly eaten up by bills, rent, mortgages, and essentials as prices continue to rise.

The fight isn’t over for the future of the NHS. The next pay rounds will begin in January 2024 and rank-and-file groups such as NHS Workers Say NO will be organising and fighting to help achieve the strike mandates needed to strike for the pay we deserve.

After over a decade of the Tories underpaying and understaffing our health service, striking doctors have the support of their NHS colleagues and the public. Their fight on pay is directly linked to keeping the NHS free from privatisation.

We know Rishi Sunak won’t protect the health service, but Keir Starmer’s Labour isn’t much better. Labour frontbenchers aren’t backing the strike actions and have openly said that they plan to halve the budgets for social care and see privatisation as an answer to the crisis in the NHS.

We need councillors and MPs that are willing to fight for real public ownership in the NHS and social care, and a party that fights for it.

If we imagine what an NHS would look like fully funded, without private companies leaching billions from it, where staff have enough to live on and are happy enough to stay, where there are enough staff to keep our patients safe. There wouldn’t be hundreds of needless deaths a week.

We need a new mass workers’ party that will fight for this kind of health service, to kick out the profiteers and let the working class democratically run our health service.

To win our fight on pay and for the future of the NHS, we need to stay united as a workforce and fight for our unions to coordinate the fight for a fully funded, publically owned NHS.