ON TUESDAY, Tory health secretary Savid Javid outlined his ‘new vision for NHS reform’ which turned out to be just a repetition of the old Tory vision of a privatised health system with the new technology of phone apps added to make it easier to shunt patients off to private hospitals.
Javid was keen to push the Tory agenda of ‘personal responsibility’ for health, saying that Britain’s overall health budget was now bigger than the GDP of Greece and that the NHS cannot continue spending ‘vast sums’ on ‘wholly avoidable’ lifestyle conditions.
He singled out obesity and smoking as prime examples.
The Tories are doing their bit to fight overweight problems by cutting benefits and holding down wages while the cost of living is soaring so that workers will not even have the cash for food!
The working class is facing not obesity as a major health issue but malnutrition, as workers are unable to feed their families and children.
Last year, a leading public health authority, Sir Michael Marmot, revealed that the death rate in one of the poorest regions of the UK was 25% higher than the average in England, leading to a ‘jaw-dropping’ fall in life expectancy in the most deprived areas.
Marmot made it clear that although these damning figures had been amplified by Covid they were the inevitable result of ‘longstanding, avoidable socioeconomic inequities and ethnic disadvantage, exacerbated by a decade of spending cuts’.
NHS funding has increased by 4% a year since its foundation in 1948 to keep pace with a growing population and new technologies. For over a decade under the Tory austerity regime, this dropped to just 1% as NHS funding was cut to the bone to pay for the Tory bail-out of the banks after their collapse in the wake of the 2008 world banking crash.
Javid was careful to avoid any mention of this, instead concentrating on cutting the NHS budget even further by making individuals responsible for their own health by changing their ‘lifestyles’.
Poverty, the biggest health threat for people, has always been regarded by the Tories as a ‘life choice’ – if only these lazy workers pulled their fingers out they could all become high paid lawyers or even millionaire bankers.
Javid made it clear that increasing NHS funding by 4% was ‘unsustainable’ and that reform was needed, including the NHS app. This app would allow people to take control of a ‘personalised budget to spend on their care’ enabling them to shop around for treatment with the promise that if their local hospital was full to capacity they could search for one somewhere in the country with vacancies.
If you can’t find a hospital appointment anywhere, then the Tories propose sending people to private hospitals who will charge the NHS exorbitant fees for treatment, cutting NHS finances even further.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, pointed out that Javid’s ‘vision for the future, ultimately omitted the most fundamental element of any recovery strategy which is tackling the chronic workforce shortages in the NHS.’
There is to be no money to recruit the thousands of doctors and nurses needed to deal with the huge and growing backlog of treatment. There is to be no pay rise for NHS workers apart from the derisory 3% being offered by the pay review board.
Instead, the message from the Tories to the working class is that you are responsible for the crisis and you must pay the price. Driven by their need to cut the massive national debt of over £2.3 trillion, along with finding billions to finance the coming imperialist war against Russia, the NHS is nothing more than a huge drain on the capitalist financial system as far as the Tories are concerned.
However, for the working class the NHS is the greatest gain ever made and it will not allow the Tories to cut it to ribbons and privatise it out of existence.
The only way to defend the NHS is for workers to force the trade unions to take immediate general strike action to bring down the Tories and go forward to a workers’ government and socialism.
A workers’ government will expropriate the bosses and bankers and provide all the funding and resources required to ensure that the NHS grows to meet the health needs of all.