THE NHS crisis is ‘like being in a war,’ Patrick Carter, who advises Tory health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, told the Royal College of Anaesthetists’ annual dinner on Tuesday.
In his speech, Carter said: ‘We need to be incredibly proud that our hospitals are running so hot, and yet they haven’t broken. It’s a staggering achievement. This is like being in a war actually and we should be extraordinarily proud of it. But you can’t continue on a war basis forever, as we know.’
We are at war, a war which has been declared by health secretary Hunt and his Tory government on the NHS. Last year, they declared war on the junior doctors, imposing a new contract making them work so many hours that it becomes unsafe for the patients they treat.
They have declared war on A&Es, children’s departments and maternity units shutting them down in hospitals across the length and breadth of the country. And they have declared war on midwives and nurses, axing the student bursary, creating a situation where student applications to become the next generation of nurses and midwives have dropped by 26%.
They have deliberately manufactured this crisis in the NHS by creating a massive shortage of staff. The Royal College of Nurses said that there are 24,000 vacant nursing posts, while the Royal College of Midwives has called for an extra 3,500 midwives.
The government are engaged in the oldest trick in the book: deliberately run a service down and then throw your hands in the air and declare that there is nothing left to do but shut it down and offer a privatised alternative. This is what they do to council estates, run them down, demolish them and then build private flats in their place.
In the case of the NHS, they have starved it of funds for years. They now throw their hands in the air and shout from the roof tops: ‘What are we to do? We have to find another way of funding the NHS.’ What is the future of health care in the UK as far as this Tory government is concerned? – A private insurance-based health system.
A group of doctors in Bournemouth has just launched a service offering unregistered patients the opportunity to queue jump NHS patients. For £80 they will receive a same-day 20-minute consultation, twice as long as NHS patients who have to wait for their appointments. In the US, annual premiums for health insurance in 2016 reached $18,142 for an average family. Giving birth to a child in the States is extremely expensive and the full cost of it is not always covered by your health insurance.
Mari Roberts, for example, when she gave birth to her daughter Scarlet in northern Virginia, found that her total bill topped $100,000. Mari’s exact hospital bill was $100,726.96. The biggest costs included: Hospital stay for 30 days: $67,375, Gynaecologist: $4,100, Anaesthetist: $2,086, Ultrasounds: $1,200-$1,600 each, Blood tests: $750-$959 each. To her and her husband’s relief, their insurance covered the entire bill. But not everyone is so lucky.
The media are now full of bad news stories about the NHS in Britain. The BBC reported: ‘Record numbers of patients spending more than four hours in accident and emergency units’, painting a picture of a system on the ‘verge of collapse’. Two days earlier, they were bemoaning ‘health tourism’, with right-wingers demanding doctors and nurses play the role of border guards, checking people’s passports before giving them treatment.
This was rightly rejected by doctors, who said that they will never deny people treatment no matter which country they happen to be born in, and that the amount involved in ‘health tourism’ is insignificant compared to the £22bn to be axed from the NHS’s budget under the Tories’ plans.
However, this does beg the question: If the NHS is as bad as they make it out to be, then why do people come from all over the world to use it?
The unions must organise occupations and call a general strike to defend the NHS. We also demand a re-call conference of the TUC to sack the present leadership which has just stabbed the RMT in the back and did not lift a finger to help the junior doctors in their fight.
We must act now to defend the NHS. That is why today’s All Trades Unions Alliance (ATUA) conference is so vital (see ad page 1). Make sure that you are there!