NHS under attack – DEFEND IT NOW!

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THE capitalist crisis and the massive indebtedness of British capitalism, with its national debt closing fast on its GDP of £1.4 trillion, means that the NHS and the Welfare State are ‘luxuries’ that the bourgeoisie can no longer tolerate.

The wolves of the bourgeoisie are already gathering preceded by their hyenas, their poisonous propagandists.

The King’s Fund and the Institute for Fiscal Studies has brought out a report that states that the NHS must prepare for an expected funding shortfall after 2011, and that the pledges of both Labour and the Conservatives to protect NHS budgets in coming years can be discounted.

They state that even the most generous forecast for the NHS is not enough to prevent it having to tighten its belt.

John Appleby, chief economist at The King’s Fund and co-author of the report, said: ‘The NHS is facing the most significant financial challenge in its history. . . That’s why it’s crucial that the service does all it can over the next two years to prepare itself for the financial freeze that will take hold over the two coming spending review periods.’

Even with cuts elsewhere and tax rises The King’s Fund says that the NHS budget faces cuts of between £6.4bn and £32.4bn by 2017.

Advocating privatisation, The King’s Fund and the IFS state that between 2011/12 to 2016/17, the NHS will need to make profits of between £23.5bn to £48.9bn. Chief executive Niall Dickson says that to achieve this ‘may well involve taking some tough decisions’.

The King’s Fund and the IFS are like Pontius Pilate – they don’t want to get their hands dirty with the nitty-gritty of knifing the NHS. They leave this to the Social Market Foundation.

It advocates paying £20 to see a GP and paying hotel charges to stay in an NHS hospital.

In its aptly-named production ‘From feast to famine: reforming the NHS for an age of austerity’, it says that free does not equal fair.

As far as it is concerned ‘fairness in the NHS will require it raising more money, using existing resources better’, i.e. increased privatisation, and ‘slowing the growth in healthcare demand’ – i.e. through top-up fees and charges for anything beyond the most basic treatments.

It says:

‘• The NHS charging system should be reformed to reflect income not categories such as pregnancy or retirement

• Anyone receiving tax credits should be totally exempt from NHS prescription charges – a good deal for the poorest 30% of society

• A charge of £20 for GP appointments should be introduced to encourage healthier, wealthier people to avoid using the NHS except when absolutely necessary, with anyone receiving tax credits totally exempt

• NHS charges for GP appointments and prescriptions should be capped at around £100 per year.’

The ‘fairest’ thing to do in this situation of ‘from feast to famine’ would be, according to the Foundation, to completely privatise healthcare, including the privatisation of health provision.

In fact, the fairest thing to do when capitalism is going from ‘feast to famine’ to an age of austerity is to get rid of capitalism and extend state ownership from the NHS to the banks and to the major industries under workers control, to abolish the capitalist famine for ever.

The British Medical Association decided at its Annual Representative Meeting, in early July, to mount a national campaign to defend the NHS and to drive the market out of it.

Every trade union, especially the NHSTogether alliance, must support this campaign especially the planned national march and rally.

At a time when the supporters of capitalism and capitalist famine and austerity are getting ready to bury the NHS, we must support it as never before, and make sure that it is capitalism that is buried, not the NHS which has secured the health of the British people for the last 60 years.