“It is vital that we stand together to defend our NHS from those who seek to undermine its core values. We need a fully public service to both protect pay and conditions for the workforce and services for patients.”
By Tom Griffiths, Keep Our NHS Public
July 5th this year sees the 75th birthday of our NHS and to mark this momentous occasion Keep Our NHS Public has organised an on-line rally among other events up and down the country. The anniversary is a cause both for great celebration but also for reflection and anger, given the steady destruction wrought by privatisation, fragmentation, lack of long term planning, workforce shortages and chronic underfunding leaving us far behind comparable European countries.
While opinion polls show that the public remains overwhelmingly supportive of its founding principles, our healthcare system – once ranked best in the world in the Commonwealth Fund comparisons of advanced countries – has fallen since 2015 to10th place.
Performance is dire, with targets increasingly missed, and an estimated 500 deaths each week from delays moving sick patients from emergency departments to overfilled wards. This is fuelled by the crisis in social care with lack of community services to support many of those medically fit for discharge, and has a devastating knock-on effect on ambulance services with crews kept waiting to unload sick patients and unable to respond to further emergency calls.
It is estimated that there were 500 deaths last year related to delayed ambulance response times. One doctor’s leader observed that the pressure on the NHS was now so severe that it was breaking its “basic agreement” with the public to treat the sickest in a timely way, commenting “the true barrier to tackling this crisis is political unwillingness; the current situation is breaking the workforce and breaking our hearts.”
The worst ever staffing crisis (according to the Commons Health Select Committee) with around 140,000 vacancies is one of the main causes of a record 7.4 million people waiting for treatment. This has led to major industrial unrest among health workers with strikes aimed not just at pay restoration but also at saving the NHS as a public service of which we can be proud, and one that is able to provide the standard of care we all deserve. The huge moral injury to staff working without the necessary tools to do the jobs for which they have been professionally trained is reflected in the record sickness absence statistics showing an equivalent of the loss of 75,000 workers last year, with mental health issues being the cause of a quarter of absences.
This year also marks the 75th anniversary of Windrush Day – the arrival of the generation of Commonwealth citizens who helped to transform our public services and build our NHS. We plan to pay tribute to them and say thank you to today’s diverse and multicultural workforce. Now, more than ever, it is vital that we stand together to defend our NHS from those who seek to undermine its core values. We need a fully public service to both protect pay and conditions for the workforce and services for patients.
The ‘reforms’ now needed are reversal of privatisation and marketisation of care, long term investment in staff, facilities and equipment, and a vision of the future based firmly on that of Nye Bevan as Britain rose from the ashes of war. Siren calls from the right that a new healthcare model is needed (inevitably involving greater dependence on the private sector, insurance companies, US corporations, etc.) must be rejected as not in the best interests of patients or the economy as a whole.
Join us on 5th July to recognise the great success of the NHS up to the recent past – and join the fight for an NHS that values its staff and is fit for purpose for a further 75 years and beyond.
Speakers include Dr Tony O’Sullivan, co-chair Keep Our NHS Public; nurse Holly Turner, NHS Workers Say No; Richard Burgon MP – Labour Party; nurse Harry Eccles, NHS Workers Say No; Margaret Greenwood MP – Labour Party; activist and author Ellen Clifford, Disabled People Against Cuts; GP Dr Pallavi Devulapalli, Green Party Health Spokesperson; Chantelle Lunt, Merseyside Black Lives Matter Alliance; Lester Holloway, The Voice; Dr Andrew Meyerson, BMA Junior Doctor.