|The News Line: Editorial
Saturday, 4 March 2017
Occupations & a general strike needed to defend the NHS and bring the Tories down!
‘SLASH, Trash and Privatise’ – this is how the purpose of the Tories’ 44 Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) is now correctly understood.
Drawn up in secret, the 44 STP plans are a blueprint for putting an end to the NHS in Britain, smashing it up and selling off each fragment to a different private company.
Plans include the shutting of 11 maternity units up and down the country plus the complete closure of 14 hospitals and the axing of thousands of hospital beds.
Today, hundreds of thousands of people are marching through central London from every part of the country, determined to smash the Tories’ plans to destroy their NHS.
It was Patrick Carter, Tory health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s top advisor, who said, ‘This is like being in a war.’ In fact, we are at war, a war which has been provoked and declared by health secretary Hunt and the Tory government on the NHS.
Their slash and burn policy has created a situation where pregnant women are now, in some parts of the country, forced to travel over 20 miles to their nearest maternity services. Prof Mike Richards, the Care Quality Commission’s (CQC) chief inspector of hospitals has described the NHS as ‘standing on a burning platform’ announcing that 81% of the 136 NHS trusts were ‘inadequate’.
This crisis in the NHS has been deliberately manufactured by the Tory government to create the scenario where they can throw their hands in the air and scream, ‘This cannot continue. What we need are new models of care.’ The ‘new models of care’ that the Tories want to introduce are essentially a US-style health insurance system.
This is what is behind their STP slash and burn plan so as to announce the NHS is not ‘Sustainable’, and then to ‘Transform’ the entire system into a privatised health insurance scheme in which the rich get treatment and the poor die early. This is why protest is a beginning, however, it is not enough. The trade union leaders, who have joined the march today, call on the Tory government to ‘change course’, to ‘listen to reason’ and change their ways.
As Unite’s Jarrett-Thorpe said: ‘It is clear that patients are being put at risk, but the solution is not to Slash, Trash and Privatise through NHS England’s STP programme, but for the Chancellor to address NHS and social care funding issues in his Budget next week.’
However, no amount of pressure on the Tories is going to make them ‘see sense’ and ‘change course’. The Tories’ course is resolute: they will dance to the tune of the economic crisis, selling off the public services to pay for the bankers’ debts.
Tory Chancellor Hammond will indeed address the NHS and social care funding issues in his Budget next week. As far as he is concerned, the NHS must be sacrificed to the financial crisis as one of its biggest austerity casualties. This is being done consciously. They ended the student midwives’ and nurses’ bursary, which enabled NHS students to study for free, to make the already acute staffing crisis in the NHS ten times worse.
The worse that it is, all the better for getting rid of the NHS, is the Tory reasoning.
Already, students signing up to NHS courses have dropped by 23% while there are already 24,000 vacant nursing posts in the country and a desperate need for another 4,500 midwives.
However, the working class in Britain will not be driven back to the pre-1948 era of early deaths, before there was a free health service in Britain. The working class will not give up the NHS and the NHS is not ours to give up. It was fought for by our grandfathers’ and grandmothers’ generation and it must be preserved and developed for the future.
That is why protest is not enough. There must be a trade union response to the Tory onslaught on the NHS. The trade unions must organise occupations by doctors, nurses, NHS staff and the communities to stop the NHS cuts and closures, and to continue the treatment of patients. Such occupations will rapidly prepare the way for a general strike to bring this government down and go forward to a workers government and socialism that will treasure and develop the NHS.
The working class is now more than ever ready for such a defence of the NHS, and the trade unions must lead it!
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