Scrap the Tory Health and Care Bill – it is a ‘privateers’ charter for the NHS!’

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TORY PM Johnson’s new Health and Care Bill currently going through Parliament, is a fresh attack on the NHS by a Conservative Party that has hated the NHS from its very inception in 1948.

This is an NHS that has been savaged by over a decade of cuts and closures and is now pushed to the very limits by the coronavirus pandemic.

This new health bill is a dangerous privateers’ charter for the NHS and must be scrapped in its entirety!

Nurses’ union the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) on Thursday called the bill ‘not fit for purpose’.

The doctor’s union, the British Medical Association (BMA), at its Governing Council has passed a resolution calling for MPs to reject the Health and Care Bill, arguing it is ‘not the right time’ to be bringing in widespread legal reforms while the NHS deals with the Covid-19 pandemic.

The truth is that there will never be a right time for such a Bill, which includes powers that will see CCGs (Clinical Commissioning Groups) abolished and replaced with new privatising integrated care systems (ICSs).

The BMA said the bill also fails to address chronic workforce shortages or to protect the NHS from further outsourcing and the encroachment of large corporate companies into healthcare.

Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the health bill ‘is a privateers’ charter’. Ashworth said: ‘Labour will be voting against this legislation and will strongly resist anything that permits further privatisation of the NHS.’

Dr David Wrigley, deputy chair of BMA Council, said: ‘This is not the right time to be making such widespread changes to our health service.

‘What’s more, the bill addresses none of the problems the NHS is currently facing – too few resources, too little funding, a crisis in social care and a huge shortage of staff. It does not address the problem of a workforce that is exhausted and depleted by the pandemic and is now facing yet another wave.’

According to BMA research, there are 2.8 doctors per 1,000 people across general practice and hospitals in England, compared to an average of 3.7 in similarly developed EU countries. It means England has the second lowest (following Poland) doctor-to-patient ratio compared with comparable EU nations.

Dr Latifa Patel, acting chair of the BMA representative body and chief officer workforce lead, said: ‘If this crisis is left to deepen, more patients will go without the care they need, their safety will be threatened, and existing staff will be pushed to the limit like never before, driving yet more talented healthcare professionals out of the NHS.’

The RCN has also warned of the NHS staffing crisis. The RCN’s acting General Secretary and Chief Executive Pat Cullen said: ‘New legislation this year has to resolve this gross oversight compromising patient safety, once and for all.

‘With ministers gambling on lifting Covid-19 restrictions and NHS waiting lists apparently set to soar to up to 13 million, the public cannot be put at risk a moment longer.

‘We went into this pandemic with almost 50,000 nursing vacancies in the UK – and the true scale of the shortage is unknown. The government has a once-in-a-lifetime chance to fix this problem and help a severely depleted workforce.’

No wonder nursing has become a less attractive option for students. The nurses’ bursary was replaced by student loans. After graduating with over £50,000 of debt new nurses face poverty wages. After lauding them as ‘heroes’ and calling for everyone to clap their efforts, the Tories offered a 1% pay rise.

Furious nurses responded by taking to the streets to demand a 15% rise. Their union the RCN has put aside a £35 million strike fund and vows that when the NHS pay review body publishes its recommendations, it will ballot for strike action against any offer that is less than 12.5%.

The battleground is set. Unison, the GMB and Unite, who all represent NHS staff, must back an all-out strike to win a 15% rise and demand that the TUC calls a general strike in support.

The way to scrap the new Health and Care Bill, defend the NHS and win NHS workers a 15% pay rise is to bring down the Tory government and go forward to a workers government and socialism.