The NHS is preparing for another winter crisis. According to a recent report by NHS Providers, services are facing a winter even tougher than last year, as hospitals struggle under the effects of years of austerity.
King George Hospital in Ilford has already announced the closure of its chemotherapy ward due to a lack of qualified nursing staff.
Under-staffing has become a serious issue, with 42,000 nursing vacancies in England alone. The Tories plan to couple shortages with more cuts to training for new staff.
Meanwhile, drugs manufacturers are charging vastly inflated prices for basic medications. Private companies steal millions of pounds from the NHS through extortionate mark-ups.
Everyday products like mouthwash are being sold for hundreds of times their original price.
The recent Tory budget has promised a meagre cash boost for NHS services.
But chronic issues such as understaffing, rip-off Private Finance Initiative contracts, and the rising costs faced by the NHS, mean that this 'increase' is not even enough to maintain services at their current level.
In reality, this means more cuts. But recent local campaigns have shown that if we fight, we can win.
Last year, a determined community mobilisation saved Glenfield Children's Heart Centre. Thousands signed petitions and attended demonstrations to keep the centre open.
Socialist Party members played a leading role and helped to link up the community campaign with the trade union movement. For example, Unite the Union general secretary, Len McCluskey, backed the campaign.
In both cases, a united struggle of health workers, their unions and the local community was central to scoring a victory.
Now we need to build a movement on a national scale. Health unions should take the lead by initiating mass action.
We can win a fully funded NHS - publicly owned and democratically controlled.
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