“The NHS is an example of socialist principles in action. If we fight for it the British public will thank us for it.”Jon Trickett MP
Our National Health Service has shown itself to be more important than ever before over the last year. It has cared for close to half a million patients who fell ill due to Covid-19, whilst protecting them from incurring any personal costs for their care. The case for a socialised health care system couldn’t be clearer than during a pandemic.
Yet, never before has our NHS been under a greater threat. The Conservative government’s White Paper, The Future of Health and Care, rubber stamps a United States style health care model for the UK. It opens the door to even further privatisation.
Privatisation is the Tories answer to everything. But the government’s response to Covid-19 demonstrates just how damaging this ideological dogma has been for our country.
The government awarded contracts to private companies like Serco to run a test and trace system that barely functioned. This significantly damaged our ability to stop the spread of the virus in the early days of the pandemic and is likely to have contributed to the needless loss of many lives.
The privatisation of test and trace meant that huge sums of public money were handed over to shareholders. This money should have gone to the NHS.
The NHS-led vaccine programme has been widely hailed as a success. How much better could the test and trace system have been if it was run by local public health teams rather than private companies with a track record of failure and profiteering?
In recent months we’ve seen an alarming growth in the role of multi-national corporations in the UK healthcare system. A subsidiary of the US based health insurance company, Centene, has taken over 58 GP surgeries with responsibility for over half a million patients. It is now the largest supplier of GP services in the UK.
We should all be concerned about the increasing role of these companies in the UK. The profit motive is incompatible with public health needs. Private companies serve the interests of shareholders, not patients. When a private health company cuts its costs, patients suffer.
When Labour created the NHS this was front and centre of our minds. But over a number of decades this founding principle has been slowly chipped away.
A battle is underway over the future of our NHS and the government is at odds with the British public.
Polling tells us the British public supports increasing funding for the NHS after a decade of Tory cuts. They are opposed to the growing involvement in private companies in our NHS. They oppose the one per cent pay rise that Boris Johnson has offered healthcare workers and support a larger pay rise.
In recent weeks I’ve tabled two Early Day Motions in the House of Commons that challenge the government’s current plans.
Early Day Motions are one way of pressuring the government by demonstrating support for a particular issue amongst MPs. They are also a good way for constituents to put pressure on their MPs by asking them to sign EDMs.
Firstly, I’ve called on Members of Parliament to join me in demanding a fifteen per cent pay rise for all healthcare workers. The government’s derisory offer of a one per cent pay rise that was announced by Rishi Sunak in the March Budget amounts to a pay cut. This is a disgraceful way to treat the people who put their own lives at risk caring for our loved ones throughout the pandemic.
Over a thousand healthcare workers died from Covid-19. Many thousands more suffered ill health and many are suffering the after-effects of ‘Long Covid’. These people deserve more than just a clap.
I’ve also called on MPs to join me in opposing the Tories White Paper and to support a full renationalisation of the NHS. This is the only way to guarantee the future of universal, publicly owned healthcare in the long term.
If the private health companies who have championed the government’s White Paper get their way the UK healthcare system will come to look a lot more like the United States.
At the local elections too many voters told us they didn’t know what Labour stands for. The NHS is one area where the Labour frontbench can clearly differentiate itself from the government.
The NHS is an example of socialist principles in action. If we fight for it the British public will thank us for it.