GREETINGS to the tens of thousands of marchers gathering in London today to answer the joint call by the People’s Assembly and Health Campaigns Together to save the NHS in England.
Health services in Wales and Scotland are not without their problems, but the biggest of these is the Tory government’s squeeze on finance to the devolved administrations.
England is unique in having the hands of Health and Social Care Secretary Jeremy Hunt personally clasped round the throat of NHS services.
He has presided over a healthcare regime he proclaims as driving efficiency savings but staff and patients perceive clearly as inflicting death by a thousand cuts.
The Tory government was warned across the health service that there would be an NHS winter crisis, but it refused to step up to the mark, making available only a tiny proportion of the emergency funding necessary.
No amount of hand-wringing or sympathetic noises can alter the reality – that the sad spectacle of patients being forced to wait in ambulances before admission to overstretched accident and emergency services or having to lie on trolleys in corridors because of a shortage of available beds – has cost lives.
Patients who find themselves in these predicaments have no criticism of the paramedics caring for them in the ambulances or the doctors and nurses in A&E.
They praise the kindness and professionalism of these health heroes and understand that the pressures on the NHS are the direct responsibility of Hunt and his Tory ministerial partners in crime.
Seventy years on from the transformation into reality of the dream of Labour health minister Aneurin Bevan and fellow campaigners for an NHS available free of charge to all at the time of use and financed through general taxation, the Tories have another US-style model in mind.
They have built on the neoliberal initiatives of Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and their New Labour acolytes, who assisted private health firms to penetrate this citadel of collective endeavour, by declaring open season on the NHS for corporate vultures.
We cannot allow the already inadequate NHS resources to be bled away by parasitic outsourcing or private health companies.
This Tory government is increasing NHS spending by about 1 per cent a year when the percentage annual increase needed is nearer 4 per cent.
It is nonsense to say that there is no money to pay for the NHS when Tories can afford tax cuts for the rich. It is a question of priorities.
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