YESTERDAY, the Tories announced their latest ploy to try and convince the country that in the face of all the evidence they actually support the NHS. Theresa May pledged that £3.5 billion a year would be given to funding primary and community healthcare by 2023/24 as part of the latest Tory long-term plan for the NHS.
According to Downing Street, this money represents an ‘historic commitment’ to ensure that a growing share of NHS spending is put into primary and community care. The Tories are painting a rosy picture of community based rapid response units set up across the country – of doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and pharmacists providing 24-hour 7-day-a-week urgent care in the community as an alternative to hospitals.
May declared: ‘Many of us might assume that hospital is the safest place to be – but in reality many patients would be much better off being cared for in the community.’
She added: ‘The longer a patient stays in hospital the more it costs the NHS and the more pressure is put on its hardworking staff.’
Just where these rapid response teams will find GPs and nurses to operate this system is a mystery that May didn’t bother to address. The plain fact is that there is a chronic shortage of GPs and hospital doctors across the country. A recent survey of GPs revealed that between 2013 to 2017 445 GP practices had closed down.
Two years ago, NHS England promised to train 5,000 more GPs by 2020. Since then the number of GPs has dropped by 1,000, according to the BMA. This chronic shortage is repeated amongst hospital doctors.
A survey conducted by the British Medical Association earlier this year found that 75% of hospital doctors reported staff shortages on wards, leading the BMA to warn that the underfunding of the NHS by the Tories had led to increased workload pressures on staff that is making NHS jobs ‘unsustainable’.
9.3% of doctors posts are unfilled, a shortage of 11,500. Nursing vacancies have soared with job applications reaching an all-time low under the impact of poverty level wages and cutting the bursaries, forcing student nurses to pay the exorbitant student fees imposed on them by the Tories. 11.8% of nurses’ posts remain unfilled – a shortage of nearly 42,000.
With hospital and ward closures at unprecedented levels – 11 hospitals in England have closed this year alone – it is not surprising that May is peddling the lie that hospitals are a luxury that people can do without and can be replaced by home visits from GPs and nurses who simply don’t exist.
As for her claim that people are better off being treated at home: Try telling that to someone experiencing a heart attack or stroke, or the elderly patient suffering dehydration (a common occurrence), and in desperate need of a saline drip. If hospitals really are unsafe, it’s because the Tories have deliberately made them so through savage cuts to NHS funding to the tune of £25 billion every year since they came to power in 2010.
The £3.5 billion that May has promised sometime in the future to fund her empty promises isn’t even ‘new’ money – it comes out of the £20 billion already pledged by the Tories in a desperate attempt to make out they ‘care’ about the NHS and avert the hatred of workers at the destruction of the health service.
As for the Tory ‘historic commitment’ to the NHS: Their only commitment has always been to smash it completely, to bankrupt it and declare it a ‘failing service’ that can only be saved by complete privatisation. There is only one way to ensure a properly funded NHS, and that is for the working class to demand that the TUC calls a general strike to kick out this Tory government and go forward to a workers’ government.
A workers’ government that would kick out the privateers and expropriate the banks and major industries as part of a planned socialist economy that would use the wealth of the country to guarantee the existence of a free at the point of delivery health service, providing the very best medical treatment for all.