Happy birthday NHS, 5 July 2013

Rachael Maskell, Health sector national officerby Rachael Maskell, national officer in the Health sector

Paid for by us, owned by us, used by us, worked in by us, and there whenever we or our loved ones need it – it is our NHS

Our NHS is our most precious service – it has grown up and developed, it has been at the forefront of medical advancements and is the envy of the world. The cheapest health service, the most efficient health service and we can all witness a seriously effective health service.

It has led to us living, on average, 12 years longer, it treats 1.5 million of us every day, it is where our life events happen – yes, happy and sad – it is where our most dedicated, loving, caring, skilled and professional staff work serve us day and night – today we thank you.

Built by our parents and grandparents 65 years ago today by a government with a vision that all should have equal access to good health – on the basis of need not the ability to pay, it is right that we honour that Attlee government today, and the father of our NHS Aneuran Bevan.

Bevan was a man of wisdom – not only did he have a vision for a different type of society, more equal and fair, where as he said the ‘dustman and the duke’ would have equal rights to health care, he also had the courage to deliver the NHS in the midst of our biggest national debt – not opting for austerity, cuts, slashing services, but using progressive economic policies to safeguard our future.

Austerity does not work in the health service, we need only look at Greece where austerity has meant that you can’t afford your drugs, public health has collapsed causing a wildfire of HIV and malaria and if you are a mum who has had a baby, you cannot take your baby home until you have paid your 100s of Euros first. Mums in Greece can’t afford to use their public health service any more, so they have their children at home – in the 2 years of austerity measures, infant mortality has doubled.

The toxic mix of cuts and sell offs seen in Greece just 2 years ago are now biting at our NHS here in England, thanks to the Tory Health and Social Care Act. Rejected by all patients and professionals who prophesied that it would lead to the end of the NHS, it is now fragmenting and selling off our health service for the benefit of filling shareholders wallets.

That is why Bevan was so protective of his NHS. The NHS planted in Trafford 65 years ago today.

He said: ‘The NHS will survive as long as there are folk with the faith to fight for it’.

He knew that one day the vultures of profiteers would come and prey on the weakest, the sickest, the disabled, the elderly and children – the most vulnerable in our society.

He knew that one day they would want to come and make a profit out of the sick.

And he knew that one day, we would have to fight to save our NHS.

It is now on our watch, that the vultures have landed. It is therefore our generation that has the responsibility, no, the duty to fight for our NHS.

Unite is totally committed to that fight, with whoever has the faith to join us.

We will do whatever we can to save our NHS. As a union, we know that this is yet another attack on working people, as it is ordinary folk like you and me that will be at the back of the queues as those with money jump to the front. We will be the ones that wait longer for treatments, we will struggle most when our hospitals and community services are cut back and closed.

We are coming to Manchester on 29th September for the biggest demonstration ever to save our NHS. It will be a historic moment as we tell this government to take their grubby hands off our NHS. We need you there, your friends and colleagues, your neighbours and your communities. Together we can win this fight.

If we have the courage, if we have the faith, as Bevan said, the NHS will survive.

Happy birthday NHS – let’s celebrate today, and tomorrow we will fight. See you on the 29th.