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On 2 March 2020, as coronavirus cases rose to four in a day, Boris Johnson told us that Britain was "well-prepared with a fantastic NHS". Nine months later, no one doubts that Johnson has lied from the start. Not only was the NHS criminally unprepared by the decades of funding cuts and privatisation, Johnson himself was part of the Tory austerity governments responsible for that.
A new report highlights how austerity - a wealth transfusion from the working class to the bosses via cuts, privatisation and low pay - is a major factor in Britain's Covid performance being one of the worst in the world.
The report correctly points out some of the austerity by which our NHS was so badly undermined: "The budget for Public Health England was cut after its foundation in 2012 by 40%... Spending on public health in local government was cut by about £800 million."
Tory and Blairite cuts and privatisation laid the basis for today's ambulance queues outside hospitals, staff shortages, and funding shortfalls that now mean millions are denied the health and care service they need. It is the defenders of capitalism who caused this crisis.
These factors alone are enough for a volcano of anger. But there is more - the cronyism, of mates of ministers getting fat contracts in the health service, confirm the impression that ours is increasingly a health service run for profit.
A fightback is necessary to turn our anger into effective change.
The health and care workers fighting for a 15% pay rise show the way. Collective workplace and trade union action has the potential to win. As long as the decisions of the Tories and the fat cats they represent go unchallenged, our NHS will continue to unwind.
It was the intervention by working-class people, through mass struggle and building their own political voice, that delivered the NHS in the first place. Today, the lessons of that period have never been more needed.
Public-Private Partnership (4)
Article dated 16 December 2020
The Socialist, weekly newspaper of the Socialist Party
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