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From The Socialist newspaper, 11 March 2020

Coronavirus: Full NHS funding now

Save our NHS, photo Mary Finch

Save our NHS, photo Mary Finch   (Click to enlarge)

Jon Dale, secretary, Unite union Nottinghamshire NHS branch (personal capacity)

Britain has almost the fewest intensive care beds per person, and hospital beds overall per person, of any country in Europe. How is our NHS going to cope with an influx from Covid-19?

It's not just vulnerable coronavirus sufferers who are at risk if there are no critical care facilities for them. Patients suffering other serious illnesses and injuries during an epidemic could have nowhere to go.

Some estimates for how much of Britain's population could contract Covid-19 during an epidemic range from 30% to 60%. While the vast majority will not need hospitalisation, those who do will put even more strain on time and space because of the need for isolation, special protective equipment and extra cleaning.

The government must immediately reverse its decades-long policies of cuts and privatisation. It should also allow the NHS to requisition private sector resources, in particular private healthcare facilities, if needed, to guarantee extra capacity during the crisis.

The NHS had just 4,100 intensive care and high-dependency beds in 2018. Germany has around four times as many per head. Even the US system, unprepared and riddled with private sector inefficiencies, has around ten times as many per head!

The Tories want to use trade talks to Americanise the NHS. But the world's most powerful economy is showing us the dangerous limits of that system.

Donald Trump's blinkered understanding of how the virus spreads has worsened its impact. By 1 March South Korea had run 100,000 tests, but the US under 500. By 8 March over 500 US cases had been reported, with many more certainly undetected.

photo Paul Mattsson

photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

The US Centers for Disease Control announced tests would be free - but hospitals have nonetheless billed patients thousands for staff time in administering them! Alex Azar, US health secretary, has been unable to report how many have been tested because competing private companies, and the public sector, have created and distributed different tests!

28 million people in the US have no health insurance. Many more are 'underinsured' so may have to pay huge bills for testing and treatment. 30% of workers have no entitlement to sick pay.

With a market shortage of diagnostic kits, and Trump's dismissal in February of the viral threat as a Democratic Party "hoax", the US could see one of the worst epidemics of the advanced economies.

Health officials have now had to promise four million tests in a week. And under pressure, Trump has been forced to promise support for workers so that they are "not going to miss a paycheque" and "don't get penalised for something that's not their fault."

What help the US capitalists will grant is yet to be seen. But the lesson is simple: the state is having to intervene because the market is incapable of running public services and protecting workers.

Meanwhile, even former Tory health secretary Jeremy Hunt admitted "the NHS has centralised structures, bureaucracy that it's sometimes criticised for, but it does mean it can react in a very coordinated and integrated way in a crisis like this."

What a hypocrite! Thirty years of privatisation by Tory, New Labour and coalition governments have not yet destroyed the NHS, thanks to resistance from workers and patients.

But their direction has been relentlessly towards the US system, including in the post-Brexit trade talks (and beforehand under the EU as well). Socialist policies to save the NHS are vital.

See also many other articles and reports on the coronavirus crisis in the 11 March issue of the Socialist.

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Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
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In The Socialist 11 March 2020:


Coronavirus: Full NHS funding now

Coronavirus infects the world economy

Flybe collapse: nationalise to save jobs threatened by Covid-19 and downturn

Coronavirus: international cooperation needed, not capitalist competition

Supermarkets are ruled by profit - unions should control supply limits

For full pay during isolation: for public health as well as workers' wallets

Self-isolation patients speak: NHS facilities and advice not up to it

Italy on lockdown: lack of resources and democracy causes panic

South Korea shows capitalism has money to respond to coronavirus

Coronavirus news in brief


Domestic Violence bill: We still need to fight to save our services

News in brief

Workplace news

Postal workers mobilise to win strike reballot

Homerton Hospital workers fight for sick pay

Fighting to transform the union in my warehouse

Argos workers in Sainsbury's stores threatened with losing collective bargaining

Homeless charity workers to strike against intransigent management

Southampton trade unionists say "defend the right to strike!"

Strong support for PCS Broad Left Network

East London uni and bin worker strikes

US election

How can Trump be ousted from the White House?

Campaigns and party news

Salford 'no-cuts' budget includes cuts and tax rises

Stoke council unions beat pay cuts - now let's stop all cuts

Is there an anti-cuts rebellion in Scotland?

Socialist Party joins International Women's Day protests

Housing workers explain reality to idiot Boris Johnson

Swansea: Ask anyone about state of services, you will hear the real story

Camarthenshire: Councillors' 'walk of shame'

Student occupation in support of striking workers

Selling the Socialist

Socialist Party executive committee positions

International news

Greece-Turkey border refugee crisis

Women's and trans rights

Women's rights, trans rights and the labour movement

Readers' opinion

Film: Greed directed by Michael Winterbottom

Childcare - costly, inadequate and hard work

Book: Why you should be a trade unionist by Unite general secretary Len McCluskey

The Socialist Inbox


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