New health secretary. Same privatisation agenda.

Fight to save our NHS!

Marching for the NHS, photo by Paul Mattsson

Marching for the NHS, photo by Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Beth Webster, nurse and Cardiff West Socialist Party

Anyone breathing a sigh of relief at seeing the back of Jeremy Hunt as health secretary should take a closer look at his replacement Matt Hancock. As well as consistently voting to speed up NHS privatisation, he’s taken £32,000 in donations from a millionaire businessman who thinks the NHS should be abolished.

Meanwhile the NHS crisis is worsening. Acute mental health beds have fallen by 30% since 2009. Ambulance response times are still rising, NHS England is short of 100,000 staff, and operations such as hernia repair and tonsil removal are being rationed. Hospitals and services are closing across England and Wales. Whatever Hancock says about his “heartbreak” for NHS staff, he’s just as intent on privatising the NHS for profit as Hunt.

In Hancock’s first speech as health secretary, he announced plans to invest £412 million in improving NHS technology – it seems there’s no magic money tree for staff or basic operations, but there is to invest in private technology companies.

Successful public campaigns against service closures such as Glenfield children’s heart unit in Leicester show that when we fight, we can win. The mere threat of industrial action by NHS staff forced the government to scrap the pay cap. But the failure of trade union leadership meant NHS staff were only offered a paltry deal of 6.5% over three years. Even this has been revealed to be a sham with some staff getting thousands less than they had been led to expect.

The Tories are disintegrating by the day. May has no credibility even in her own party, and no way to balance the anger of working class people and the interests of big business. Health unions need to build for strike action, fighting to link up and coordinate action with workers across the public sector.

Jeremy Corbyn should be calling for mass action to defend our NHS and bring down the Tory government.He must boldly pledge real funding for the health service, reversal of privatisation and scrapping of private finance initiative deals. A mass movement could bring the Tories down. Join the Socialist Party, join the fight back, and let’s kick the Tories out for good!