The NHS – marching to keep it safe, 23 September 2013

Rachael Maskell, Health sector national officerby Rachael Maskell, head of Health

The NHS – marching to keep it safe

With 15% of the NHS budget in England now spent on underpinning the private sector market, and others squeezing the NHS to maximise shareholders’ profits, we have a right to be fearful about the future of the NHS, and our health.

Since April, 80% of contracts have gone to the private sector, taking £2.5bn our of the NHS budget in just 4 months. This is on top of the £3bn price tag for the reorganisation of the NHS that patients, professionals and the public rejected.

Cuts to the budget and funding the market is causing hospitals to cut staff and clinical commissioning groups (the group of GPs and accountants running the NHS) to cut services altogether.

In fact, in the most deprived areas, GPs are getting less money per person to spend, as people do not live long enough to get the additional funding or simply don’t register with their GP. If you are from overseas, you may be denied any treatment on the NHS of the future altogether.

Every cut puts patients at risk in an already overstretched NHS. Fewer nurses impacts on levels of care, fewer scientists mean that it takes longer to get results, fewer speech therapists result in kids not having the input they need; the same is true for all services.

Top ups are already required by many services to pay for the additional essentials to keep a service, but clearly only accessible by those with a healthy bank balance or a health insurance policy.

As private patients are being projected to the front of the queue in the NHS hospitals, the future means that ordinary folk like us will not be able to afford the NHS of the future. Make no mistake – these cuts are an attack on our families, our communities and those who are being pushed to the bottom of our society.

These cuts attack our health. Health inequalities are growing, and the reality will mean that the health outcomes will get worse for the most disadvantaged.

Is this the ‘NHS’ you are willing to tolerate?

This is no longer a threat, but a reality.

Every trade unionist has a responsibility to safeguard our NHS.

Bevan warned us that one day the vultures would come and pick over its spoils. It is on our watch that they have landed and therefore it is our duty to go to Manchester on 29 September and fight for the NHS.

This is now a matter of life and death for some – as trade unionists, we never cross to the other side, we have to fight. Now is the time and now is the chance for the biggest ever demonstration in support of our NHS. Let’s quarantine in the Tories and put a spotlight on all they are doing. It is time they learnt a lesson.

The NHS is ours, we own it, we pay for it, we work in it, and now we are going to fight for it.

See you in Manchester.