NHS under siege – TUC must act

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TORY Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, announced on June 2nd that the NHS must ‘stop making excuses’ and deliver ‘its side of the bargain’ going on to proclaim that the ‘time for a debate’ about NHS funding was over.

The reason for his desperate demand that all discussion of NHS finances is stopped has now been made clear with the revelation that even the loyal bosses in NHS England are saying in private what every NHS worker knows – that the NHS is being strangled to death by cuts that threaten every hospital and service.

The ‘bargain’ that Hunt is insisting the NHS deliver refers to the pledge given by Cameron at the time of the election that a Tory government would put £8 billion into the health service. According to Hunt, in return for this £8 billion NHS bosses would have to find £22 billion worth of ‘savings’ – these were supposed to come from cutting back on agency staff and other efficiencies.

The £8bn from the government plus the £22bn in ‘savings’ would, it was claimed, fill the £30bn hole in the NHS budget projected for 2020. While publicly supporting this Faustian bargain, it now turns out that the bosses at NHS England knew full well, that the £22 billion of promised savings was nothing but ‘pie in the sky’ in the words of one senior NHS official.

Now they are admitting that the £8bn they asked for was always only half what they believe is really needed given that even the most drastic ‘efficiencies’, will only result in £15bn of savings. According to an article in yesterday’s Observer, the chief executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens, says the savings achieved by holding down the pay of NHS workers, cutting back on agency staff and all the other cuts they have in the pipeline are inadequate to meet the bargain NHS England struck with the Tories.

Indeed Stevens – who was brought in to run the NHS from a US private health corporation – is now saying that the projected black hole of £30bn in the NHS will become even bigger as cuts to local council social care budgets mean more pressure on hospitals and GPs, to say nothing of Cameron’s decision to impose seven-day-a-week working on GPs.

The question is why did these NHS bosses ask for £8bn (a figure the Tories happily accepted) when they knew full well it was all ‘pie in the sky’? The answer is simply that the NHS is being set up for bankruptcy and being forced into the hands of the giant health corporations through the wholesale privatisation and destruction of the National Health Service.

Already the hedge funds and speculators are making a fortune out of the NHS and driving hospitals into bankruptcy through the Private Finance Initiative, which was used under both Tory and Labour governments to build or redevelop hospitals using private finance. The latest figures show that the NHS will spend £2bn this year on these parasites under deals that lock it into huge repayments for up to 40 years – repayments that grow continually year on year.

According to a report in The Sunday Telegraph, one investment fund expects repayments of almost £18bn out of 18 PFI deals. Hunt is reported to be ‘exasperated’ that the whole question of NHS financing is once again being brought out in public. If he and the Tories are exasperated, the working class is seething with anger at the NHS being deliberately starved of funds while the banks and hedge funds suck the very life blood out of it.

The answer to the Tories’ exasperation is to put them out of their misery by demanding that the TUC defend the existence of the NHS by organising a general strike to kick the government out and bring in a workers’ government that will expropriate the banks and hedge funds and ensure a free NHS for everyone as part of a planned socialist economy.