THE SKYROCKETING increase in energy bills is driving the health and education services to the wall, with leaders in both these vital services warning that cuts across the board to staffing, pay and provision are inevitable.
Schools and hospitals are not covered by the energy price cap, meaning, that while families are plunged into crisis as the average energy bill is set to jump by 80% to £3,549 a year from October, these will face even greater catastrophic increases.
Rory Deighton of the NHS Confederation told the Mirror newspaper that last year’s £500 million spent on energy costs by NHS hospitals would be ‘eclipsed’ this year before getting even worse in 2023.
He said: ‘The gap in funding from rising inflation will either have to be made up by fewer staff being employed, longer waiting times for care, or other areas of patient care being cut back.’
Deighton added: ‘The NHS needs at least £3.4 billion to make up for inflation during this year alone. That’s before we face a winter of even higher wholesale energy prices.’ One hospital trust told the Mirror that it expects its energy bills to rocket by around £20 million this year.
Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trusts said that rising costs are a ‘particular challenge’ and it is looking at ways to cut costs and energy use.
A spokeswoman for the trust said: ‘The energy market is in a constant state of flux so these increases could cost us an extra £20 million compared to previous years.’
Along with the NHS, the education sector is facing a massive crisis as unregulated energy bills reach stratospheric levels. Gas and electricity prices for schools shot up by 83% in the first quarter of 2022 compared to last year.
The average state primary school paid over £17,400 more in this period than at the same time last year, while secondary schools paid a staggering £89,500 more.
Paul Whiteman from the National Association of Head Teachers said: ‘Some of our members have reported rises of over 300% – the equivalent of several members of staff.’ He added: ‘Money is being diverted away from education and from pupils and being given to energy companies instead. That just isn’t right.’
The NHS Confederation has called for the new Prime Minister, likely to be Liz Truss, to urgently provide ‘top-up’ cash before winter to offset the energy bill crisis.
Truss has already answered this call when she announced she intends to snatch £13 billion earmarked for the NHS and divert it into social care.
Hospitals will be forced to cut staff, reduce wages and cut back on energy-expensive operations, and schools face reducing both staff and teaching times to put massive profits in the pockets of the energy companies and their shareholders.
With inflation and energy bills wrecking the NHS and education system, a survey of over 2,000 UK adults found that 23% will be forced to do without heating during winter – a figure that is even higher for parents with children under 18 years with 27% saying they would turn off heating to save money to feed their children.
The Tories are prepared to smash the NHS and every public service in their determination to inflict the crisis of capitalism squarely on the backs of workers and their families.
This requires the Tories to wage an all-out war on the working class and its trade unions – something Truss has pledged to do within days of her becoming PM.
The working class is not standing still and accepting that its fate is to keep a bankrupt British capitalist system from collapse and keep the profits of the bosses rolling in while workers go cold and hungry and the NHS and public education are destroyed.
The massive wave of national strikes is testament to the determination of the working class to fight.
The urgent issue today is for these strikes to be developed into an indefinite general strike to bring down the Tories and bring in a workers’ government that will nationalise the banks and major industries placing them under workers’ management as part of a socialist planned economy.
Only the WRP and Young Socialists fight for this policy. Join today.