Felicity Dowling writes: Go out and protest on the NHS 73rd Birthday on July 3rd, there will be a protest near you, but do more. Build the opposition to the dangerous NHS White Paper in your area.
We need the NHS from when we are born, we need it to keep us well, getting treatment early, treat us when we are ill, soothe the end of our lives, but also we need it to stop catastrophic bankruptcy when we or our loved ones get ill. We do not take our credit cards to the hospital, unlike the USA.
The NHS should provide universal and comprehensive healthcare, free when we need it, and funded by the government. That is how the NHS was founded, that is why it worked. That is how it should be restored, reinstated. The proposed legislation in the NHS White Paper threatens its very core. Know your history. The NHS was founded following decades of campaigns often by the poorest of the poor. It was founded by the 1945 Labour Government and Nye Bevan. Its future now is in our hands. No one on a white horse will ride in to save it, it has to be us, the ordinary people, the trade union rank and file, and the people active in our communities.
We need to know our history, but we also need to know our enemy. Some of the biggest corporations in the world are after the wealth of the NHS, in an organised campaign where they use the long view, taking the NHS bit by bit. We too are taking the long view. The NHS is ours over decades, we will not let it slip through our fingers. If you do not fight you will lose, but if you do fight, you just might win. That is why we are calling for a social movement to defeat these plans.
We will campaign for Government funding for all health care. This system, of government-funded comprehensive universal health care, is the most cost effective and efficient in the world. However, the NHS has been starved of funds for a decade, subjected to many different kinds of exploitation, and damaged by diversion of funds away from patient care and into profit for private companies. This was done by the Lib-Dem/Tory Coalition, Conservative, and earlier Labour governments. PFI is just one example of this exploitation, Carillion was another. The Health and Social Care Act has been a disaster. We demand better, but better for the patients and the staff, not more cash for the private corporations like Alliance Medical, Babylon Health, MI Healthcare (Circle Health), Capita, Care UK/Practice Plus Group, Centene/Operose Health, Circle Health, Cygnet Health Care, Spire and more, who are circling like vultures.
We will campaign for NHS care to be available for everyone, the system known as universal public healthcare. This system has been shrunk, openly excluding many migrants, including the scandal of the Windrush generation, who had lived and worked here perfectly legally then were denied medical care and many other rights. It was further shrunk by the surcharging of migrants, including NHS staff. There have been deaths in maternity because of this. The introduction of migrant charges has caused unnecessary illness, fear and distrust in the migrant and BAME communities, especially when unpaid NHS bills restrict people’s access to visas. No-one is safe from infectious diseases and pandemics unless everyone can access health care. We salute the work of BAME staff in the NHS and the pandemic. We mourn every one of our pandemic dead, including black and ethnic minority communities who suffered badly.
We will campaign for the NHS to provide comprehensive care, all the treatments we need, without ‘post code lottery’ rationing and barring of certain treatments in some areas of the country. The present regime is committed to reduce the number and range of treatments available to patients. This restriction of treatments is designed to create a market for relatively simple profitable treatments in the private sector. We want universal healthcare – all necessary treatments available to everyone. The pandemic and current government policies have put multi-millions into the private health sector.
We will campaign for the funding of the NHS to come directly from Government, and go directly to the service, without private intermediaries. This system is an excellent investment in the health and wealth of the country, and of individuals, repaying the investment many times over. We will campaign for a fully funded NHS with a cash injection now, and a guarantee of a 4% uplift in funds every year for a decade. Every penny must be directed at the service, staff, patients, and essential administration, with none syphoned off into private ‘for-profit’ companies The universal care system is far more cost efficient than the US system; the motivation for change is that the US health system makes more private profit.
We will campaign for a fully staffed NHS with all the Doctors, Nurses, Midwives and related professions needed. This will mean additional training including university places, training, and improved working conditions to encourage the staff, of every race and migration status that we have now to stay whilst more are trained. The government failed too in planning staff numbers leaving the NHS desperately short of staff, with a shortage of nearly 40,000 nurses.
The NHS staff is due a huge debt of gratitude for their work during the pandemic. But even before that, the efforts of staff kept the NHS functioning, working way beyond reasonable levels and constantly finding work-arounds to compensate for under-funding and bad management. The NHS staff are due a big pay rise and better working conditions. Staff are significantly threatened by the proposals in the White Paper, threatened by losing national pay and conditions and more.
We will campaign for a national health service not 42 regional organisations each with their own structures. Even now, as the “integrated” Care Systems are being constructed, there are huge differences between areas, with different services being rationed, and different big companies getting slices of the pie (with Virgin being part of the decision-making body in Bristol ). Many people see the ICS system as cosy and positive. Health campaigners do not see them that way. Far from integration, we see disintegration. What is being integrated is the private companies into the NHS, the better to leech their profits. We support a national integrated health service.
We will campaign for a care system too, a fully funded universal, free at the point of need care system, designed to support independent living. We reject the ICS system and the myth that a universal comprehensive free at the point of need service like the NHS can integrate with a cruelly means tested, patchy, under-invested, but very profitable privately owned social care sector. It is another name for outsourcing and for delivering NHS funds into the private sector.
We will campaign for mental health care, a fully functioning well-staffed publicly provided mental health system, brought back fully into the NHS. The scandal that is the NHS mental health provision is the ‘music of the future’ if this White Paper is allowed a fair passage through parliament without protest.
We will campaign for the maternity services that match the best in the world, but it’s far from that right now.
We will campaign to keep our links with the GPs in person. Technology can be brilliant but it’s no way to treat our elders or those without access to tech. Physiotherapy over the phone is a cheapskate joke. We want Centene out of the NHS and far away from our primary care. GPs should decide if we need to be referred to hospital, not some referral company.
We will campaign for clear speech in the NHS and the end of deceitful language. ‘Accountable Care’ does not mean that the care is answerable to the people, but that accountants can work on it.
The NHS is the corner stone of the rights of working people. We will not stand by and see it given away. The poor health of our children, the years of life lived in ill health and the foreshortened lives of the poor demand a decent health service. Decent food for all, clean air, less stress in our employment, decent housing and a proper welfare system will develop better health for the population, not some US company deciding what treatments we can or cannot access. Poverty designed by Javid in the austerity programme made our children ill. Child poverty in this country costs the kids and costs the NHS. The Lancet said it well, “Britain is broken Poor child health proves it”.
We will campaign to protect our wealth too, to maintain the protection the NHS gives to our personal and family finances.
“The NHS continues to provide citizens with a high level of protection from the financial consequences of poor health, with some of the lowest worldwide incidences of catastrophic expenditure (i.e., when health spending exceeds 10% of household consumption) due to out-of-pocket health spending.”
There is already a community of health campaigners in many local areas and some big organisations like KNOP, Defend our NHS, Network 999, the long running campaigns for Chorley hospital, Save Liverpool Women’s Hospital, SHA and many more splendid and determined organisations.
We will campaign against the many faces of privatisation in the NHS, from the long-established outsourcing to the new model already under way, but clearly described in the White Paper – Population Funding. This is an American model, based on how the government-funded sections of popular health care negotiate with the private sector to ensure the private sector gets a good slice of profit from the money designed to treat the poor. The NHS model was that if the NHS ran over budget the government picked up the deficit. Remember, this is cheaper than the US model.
We will campaign for the privacy of our data. Sign the opt out form https://medconfidential.org/how-to-opt-out/ opt out for your own deepest privacy, but also to protect the huge value held in the NHS for research but not research to make profit.
We will campaign with US health campaigners for single payment universal health in the US. We need their help, they need ours. The US current system has nothing to teach the NHS, US health outcomes are a scandal.
if you doubt the value of NHS data listen to this multinational company Optum spokesperson, explaining the value of NHS data to them, Population Health Management is code for rationing of care. Ask US patients or listen to this (it’s long, and if you do listen, remember US outcomes for Diabetes are poor compared to the UK).
If the huge wealth of the NHS is seen as a big pizza, then the privatisers have been taking slices of that wealth. Now they are after the bakery, they want full control, they want all the income from the government, but to give fewer treatments and restrict provision to save cash.
Factory Farmers look at their huge herds and decide on veterinary care for the whole herd. That is the model behind population funding. We want patient needs to lead spending. WE are not cattle.
Money for the NHS belongs to the patients not US companies. The model foreshadowed in the White Paper will not save money but will direct money into private companies whilst rationing and restricting care. We will be paying companies to give us less care.
The pandemic, and the government’s cruel and corrupt incompetence, cost us tens of thousands of lives. That is the model to expect if they get away with the White Paper. Sajid Javid might pause the White Paper, especially with pressure, which will give us more time to gather our forces, to build a social movement to defeat these plans.
The government has used the pandemic to pour funds into the private health sector, instead of nationalising it in the depth of the pandemic. They want to find as many ways as possible to extract money from NHS funds to direct those funds to private profit
The generation that defeated fascism left us free education, council housing, a welfare state with some dignity, and the NHS. But much has been lost. We cannot lose the NHS. We charge the Labour Councillors and MPs that this is on their watch. They can go along and claim to ameliorate the bill or stand proud on our history, stand by Labour conference policy, and speak up for the NHS, free at the point of need and publicly funded, or go down in ignominy as cowards.
We will make demands that Labour return to its roots and fight for the NHS. The Conservatives claim to be supporters of the NHS, proclaim in elections they would never harm the NHS. All their actions are coated in sweet though duplicitous words, but many a Conservative MP will fear the reaction they will face if the NHS goes down.
The trade unions in the UK too must take up the baton of the defence of the NHS free at the point of need, universal, comprehensive care and a national public service.
The pensioners are already up in arms and will not be silenced.
We, with many allies, can build a movement for the NHS but it means speaking up and speaking out.
Our enemies are the most powerful big corporations in the world who have planned their attack on the NHS since Blair and Simon Stevens started the project. Nevertheless, if we tell the people and tell them loud and clear what is going on, we can build a movement strong enough to save it.
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Felicity Dowling is a principal speaker for Left Unity, a founder of the Save Liverpool Women’s Hospital Campaign, a member of KNOP and SHA, of Unite Community, and an organiser of the Cheshire and Merseyside coordinated NHS campaigns.
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