BMA junior doctors strike. Photo: Paul Mattsson
BMA junior doctors strike. Photo: Paul Mattsson

But Labour won’t deliver pay and funding we need

Gareth Bromhall, Ambulance service worker, and Swansea and West Wales Socialist Party

For years our NHS has been crumbling; decades of underfunding and privatisation have meant that its infrastructure is at breaking point.

The discovery of RAAC concrete in NHS buildings has closed wards and buildings, and added to the workload of already overstretched and under-resourced maintenance departments.

Meanwhile, Rishi Sunak and his front bench are floundering, scrambling to appeal to their shrinking base as their party languishes in the polls.

The recent scrapping of green measures and pushing back of deadlines, rumoured changes to inheritance tax, and the conscious stoking up of ‘culture-war’ issues is indicative of a Tory party in crisis, flailing wildly trying to minimise the level of their defeat at the next election.

Waiting lists continue to build, ambulance queues grow outside A&Es, and recent reports show the sheer scale of staff turnover, as more and more are forced out of the health service due to low pay, poor conditions and high workload.

Strike action by nurses, ambulance service staff, doctors and other NHS staff across the UK over the past year has shown the power that NHS staff have, and the mass support that is behind us.

The Tories threat of using the minimum service levels legislation, with the prospect of doctors and nurses being dismissed for exercising their right to strike, could unleash a huge backlash from the working class.

Public support for the NHS and its staff, coupled with an attack on our democratic rights, could trigger levels of industrial action and civil disobedience not seen in generations, especially if the union leaders give a fighting lead.

And the Tories have no answer to the crisis of their own creation; they are desperately attempting to save face and shore-up what support they have left. But this is against a Labour Party which, although likely to win at the next election, does not have the answers to this crisis either.

Starmer and his ‘red Tory’ cronies are using this time to appeal to a section of their supporters. But not the unions or working-class communities decimated by decades of austerity and privatisation. Instead it is the City of London and big business the Labour leaders appear more interested in courting.

What’s needed to defend our NHS and many of the other victories of the working class is a new workers’ party, instigated by the trade unions and bringing together socialist groups and community campaigners, with a socialist programme that puts at its core fully funding the NHS and kicking big business out of our health service.