People forced into debt to pay for private treatment as Tories slash the NHS!

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69,000 PEOPLE were forced to pay for private medical treatment in the final three months of last year, according to figures from the Private Healthcare Information Network (PHIN), with the total number of those paying for care over 250,000 last year.

These were not people covered by private health insurance but those in desperate need of operations, suffering excruciating pain and unable to access treatment from a national health system that has been deliberately underfunded by over a decade of Tory austerity cuts and the drive to privatise the NHS out of existence.

This crisis has forced thousands of desperate people to pay the exorbitant costs of private operations, with the BBC yesterday revealing that it has ‘seen evidence of people taking out loans and resorting to crowdfunding to pay for private treatment’.

Costs for hip and knee replacements are often above £15,000, way beyond the means of ordinary workers and their families facing a catastrophic cost of living crisis.

The patient watchdog, Healthwatch England, told the BBC that waits for treatment were one of the most common concerns of patients and warned the situation risked ‘widening health inequalities’.

The chief executive said that for most people, going private ‘simply isn’t an option’ especially with inflation and the cost of living out of control. He said: ‘People on the lowest incomes are the most likely to wait the longest for NHS treatment.’

Jonathon Holmes of the King’s Fund health think tank said: ‘The risk is we’re left with a two-tier system where some people have to wait too long for care and others feel forced to bust the bank to get the care they need.’ This crisis will only deepen as the Tories are preparing to inflict a further massive cut in spending on the NHS, by forcing the service to fund the pay review body recommendations on NHS pay.

The Tories have announced that they intend to impose a 4.5% pay increase for doctors, but not for junior doctors who will only get 2%, while other staff including nurses and auxiliaries will get an average of 4.75%.

A spokesman for NHS England supported the Tory plan for these wage offers, but warned that the NHS was not getting any extra money to pay for the rise, putting even more health services under threat.

The Tories originally only made provision for a 3% pay increase and are now insisting that anything above this figure must come out of cuts and savings to existing services.

The ‘extra cost’ will be nearly £2 billion. This will be cut from hospitals and health services that are already collapsing under the strain of all the austerity cuts and privatisation schemes of successive Tory governments, determined to destroy the NHS as a public service free at the point of delivery.

The Tories are intending to scrap the NHS and make paying for treatment the ‘new normal’, depriving millions of workers access to medical treatment and leaving them to suffer at home.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has rejected this pay offer with RCN general secretary Pat Cullen saying it is ‘now time to stand up and say enough is enough’.

The RCN national council unanimously decided this week to ballot for industrial action, including strike action, with Cullen saying : ‘After years of underpayment and staff shortages the fight for fair pay must continue.’

The RCN has been campaigning for a pay increase of 5% above the inflation rate. The current Tory insulting pay offer, with the strings that mean that most of it will be financed out of the already depleted NHS budget, driving more people to private treatment of a dubious nature, is a declaration of war against nurses and the entire working class, betraying their intention to put an end to the NHS which was won by the working class in the period after the Second World War.

The Tories have been seeking to smash it since it was introduced. The issues of pay and keeping the NHS as a fully funded publicly provided health service, are inseparable from the political struggle to bring down this Tory government and go forward to a workers’ government and socialism.

The entire trade union movement must support the strike call by the RCN, by forcing the TUC to call a general strike to kick out the Tories and go forward to a workers’ government that will expropriate the bosses and bankers and bring in a nationalised and planned socialist economy.

Only a socialist revolution can defend the NHS and ensure that it grows and develops to meet the health needs of all workers and youth in the UK.

By theatening to loot the NHS to pay NHS workers an inadequate rise, the Tories have signed their own political death warrant. It must be delivered with a massive general strike!