Javid tells gps to drop health checks for elderly

Facing up to the potential effects of the new Omicron Covid variant, and anxious to avoid introducing further lockdown measures, the government has declared its mission to deliver a booster vaccine.

Unlike privatised test and trace, initial UK vaccination benefited from a coordinated, public, National Health Service. But that same service is starved of funds and overwhelmed by a backlog – six million on waiting lists by the new year, according to the health secretary.

Far from offering a remedy, the government has given GP practices permission to postpone minor surgery and routine health checks for over-75s to enable GPs to deliver the booster. Many more health conditions will no doubt go undiagnosed and untreated.

The move has been welcomed by some GP leaders, enabling them to avoid some ‘bureaucratic demands’ and ‘unnecessary paperwork’.

But fundamentally the problem is one of staff and resources. Decades of cutbacks, underinvestment and privatisation from Tory and Labour governments have left the NHS unable to cope – and lacking staff willing to work under high pressure for low pay. That’s why the Socialist Party backs the NHS workers’ call for a 15% pay rise, and campaigns for a fully funded, public NHS.

Largely as a consequence of public services being unable to cope, emergency measures have needed to be taken at different points throughout the Covid pandemic. Those decisions cannot be left in the hands of Johnson and his government, which has proven it always puts the interests of big business first. Instead, it should be the working class and trade unions that decide democratically what measures need to be taken in the interests of the majority.

Government cuts left NHS ‘woefully underprepared’

“This report makes clear that the NHS went into this pandemic woefully underprepared and underresourced, and the only reason the health service was able to provide care and services at the level it did was because of the unwavering dedication of frontline workers who gave their all – including their lives…

“Brutal cuts to public health services in their hundreds of millions over the last decade left the UK without adequate testing capacity resulting in the outsourcing of test-and-trace operations. This wasted £37 billion of taxpayers’ money on an ineffective system that failed to identify the spread of the virus.”

These are the words of British Medical Association (BMA) council chair Chaand Nagpaul in response to the publication of the People’s Covid Inquiry.

What’s needed is a struggle for resources, led by the trade unions including health unions like the BMA, to demand the funding needed for decent health care. That includes funding a 15% pay rise for NHS and care staff, and bringing privatised services back in-house.

The cost of vaccination

Photo: Frolicsomepl/CC

Photo: Frolicsomepl/CC   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

The cost of an undervaccinated world is new variants and millions of preventable deaths, particularly in the world’s poorest nations. Just 9.2% of Afghanistan’s population is fully vaccinated, 11.7% in Iraq. According to the Gates Foundation, $25 billion is what it would take to vaccinate the entire planet.

A lot of money, but dwarfed by the $89 billion in profits made by the top ten pharmaceutical companies in 2019. It is also put into perspective by the $20.2 billion annual air-conditioning bill for the US military in Afghanistan and Iraq!

Left in the hands of the billionaires, the world’s wealth will continue to be hoarded by a tiny few, or be squandered on murderous wars. We say nationalise the pharmaceuticals, big business and the banks under democratic workers’ control and use the wealth to look after our health!

  • See ‘Covid-19: New variant emerges but same old capitalist disease’