The Socialist 24 January 2018 |
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100,000 stuck on ambulances
33,000 nurses quit health service
Private profit out of our NHS
Marching to save the NHS, photo by Paul Mattsson (Click to enlarge)
Bea Gardner, Southampton Socialist Party
Many of us are terrified of coming down with one of the many viruses hitting Britain this winter. Or there is a sense of dread at the possibility of joining the people in queues of ambulances outside A&E departments - over 100,000 already this winter.
Once inside, hospitals are dangerously understaffed by overworked health workers. This has contributed to a crisis in staff recruitment and retention. 33,000 nurses left the profession last year, escaping stress and low pay. For the first time, more left the NHS than joined it.
Scandalously, the NHS is forced to give billions to private profiteers before a single penny is spent meeting the basic health needs of the population.
Companies such as Carillion have been raking it in from overpriced and unaffordable 'private finance initiative' (PFI) contracts. There are more than 100 PFI hospitals in the UK, for which the NHS has committed just under £80 billion.
The original cost of building these hospitals was just £11.5 billion. Even accounting for the cost of running services included in the contracts, this amounts to an enormous waste.
Last year, the Centre for Health and the Public Interest found some PFI firms had profit margins of over 30%. And the National Audit Office has now found one PFI hospital cost 70% more than if the project had been built direct by the government.
It is clear the NHS needs to be freed from the shackles of this debt. Jeremy Corbyn has denounced the "outsource-first racket" and pledged to bring PFI contracts back in-house.
The Labour leadership should be raising this demand at every opportunity. But to achieve it, this must be linked to cancelling the PFI debt - and nationalising the banks and top corporations which control the economy, including many privatisation projects.
Millions would respond if Corbyn and the unions called them onto the streets as part of a determined strategy to save the NHS. Corbyn has the opportunity to do this ahead of the NHS demo in London scheduled for 3 February.
Such a demonstration, if coupled to a programme for struggle from the unions, could set off a wave of action across the NHS. The junior doctors' struggle of 2016 got enormous public support. It would get even more now, two years on.
This is what we need if the NHS crisis is to be solved. An end to the Tories, and a Corbyn-led government under mass pressure to stick to its guns. Not a penny more for the PFI vultures raking in the money that should be funding our NHS!
March to save our NHS
- Saturday 3 February
- London protest: 12pm at Gower Street, WC1E