Socialist Party placards at a protest of healthcare workers in London  demanding a pay rise , photo Isai

Socialist Party placards at a protest of healthcare workers in London demanding a pay rise , photo Isai   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Unions must lead fight for:

  • 15% pay rise now
  • End to privatisation
  • Fully funded NHS and social care

The NHS is in the cold grip of another winter crisis. Ambulances are already lining up outside of A&E, unable to discharge patients, even before the potential effects of the new Omicron Covid variant. Those with existing health concerns or vulnerabilities dread the prospect of needing emergency treatment.

For NHS staff, every day brings the prospect of plunging into a new day of crisis. Nearly 14,000 nurses left the professional register between April and September, many unable to cope. Over 30% of those who start training do not finish.

The NHS staff shortage is a major factor leading to increased excess deaths, including the 4,519 patients that have died as a result of overcrowding and 12-hour stays in A&E last year.

Health workers in the Royal College of Nursing, Unison and GMB unions are all balloting for strike action in England after rejecting the government’s pitiful 3% pay ‘rise’ in the summer – a pay cut. Since then, inflation has risen further. Those low-paid workers who have already been forced to visit food banks are being asked to pay even more for rent, goods and services.

And NHS workers are not alone. Teachers have been offered a pay freeze, and local government workers are also balloting to strike after rejecting a 1.75% pay offer. In fact, no section of the working class can escape rising costs. The only way out is to get organised and fight back. A series of trade union victories for a pay rise, such as the bus drivers in south Wales and care workers in north London, give a glimpse of what could be achieved if union leaders were to give a lead.

A pay rise in the NHS would be an important step towards solving it’s perpetual crisis; so would the reintroduction of fully funded training programmes, with no fees and adequate bursaries. These steps, and proper investment in buildings and resources, require a huge increase in funding.

This should come not from the pockets of workers through national insurance increases or other means, but from the bank accounts of the super-rich who have used the pandemic to get even richer – some of them by rinsing the NHS itself through lucrative PPE contracts.

The privatised health services and the big drugs companies should be nationalised, with no compensation to their billionaire owners, to form part of a publicly owned, fully funded NHS under the democratic control of workers, patients and our communities.

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