NHS demonstration NHS demonstration. Photo: Jim Aindow

NHS activists are sounding the alarm on the continued Tory attack on our health service. Alia Butt explains why you should join the SOS NHS day of action this Saturday

It seems like the government’s attack on working people is getting more and more brazen and brutal. Government tax hikes and wage drops will obviously only make life more difficult for those already struggling the most. Soaring inflation has brought us to the worst cost of living crisis in a generation. 

Cuts to Universal Credit, the pensions triple lock suspended and a 54% increase in energy bills mean the number of people who are having to choose between heating and eating is getting bigger and bigger.

The government’s ‘Levelling Up’ programme continues to be a scam. It is an outright lie and despite this being something we have come to expect from this government, I was shocked to find that the borough of Hackney where I live and work (and where 48% of children are living in poverty) has been allocated 16p per head. This is shocking, particularly when you compare it to Sajid Javid’s far wealthier Bromsgrove constituency which is set to receive £148 per head, despite there being less than half the number of children living in poverty than in Hackney.

A hugely frustrating part of this picture is that the government continues to act in ways that financially benefit them and their rich friends, even if they don’t make economic sense for the country. Their greed results in money being pumped where it is needed far less but also means deprivation is unnecessarily increasing across the board. Much of their treatment of the NHS is tied up in corruption and is therefore economically wasteful and foolish.

I am a proud member of Keep Our NHS Public. We believe that public money should go into public services and be run by working people. We – just like three quarters of the UK public – want to put an end to the intentional underfunding of the NHS. We believe that wealth accrued through our taxes should be used within the NHS and that is where it should stay. 

We do not believe it should be wasted by private companies who do not appropriately utilise the resources needed to keep the public safe and healthy. It’s not just that they don’t know how to do this effectively or efficiently, but it is that they are not interested in doing so. Their main interest is profit, not public health.

KONP have joined with several unions and organisations including the People’s Assembly Against Austerity and have launched the SOSNHS campaign. The three demands are as follows:

1Approve emergency funding of £20 billion to save lives.

2Invest in a fully publicly owned NHS & guarantee free healthcare for future generations.

3Pay staff properly: without fair pay staffing shortages cost patient lives.

On the 26 February, the campaign has called a national day of action. Find out about the local events being set up in your area – there’ll demonstrations and protests taking place across the country.

NHS Staff Voices have joined with NHS Workers Say No! and have decided to hold a demonstration near Great Ormond Street Hospital to show solidarity with striking security guards who have spearheaded what is set to be one of the longest security guards’ strikes in the history of the NHS. This is group of outsourced workers who are on lesser contracts than their mostly white, in-house colleagues and are receiving worse pay, worse benefits, and worse conditions – including no sick pay despite working in a hospital. United Voices of the World (UVW) have been demanding that bosses at the NHS bring these workers in house.

Many of these workers are the ones who will struggle to manage due to energy bills rising by nearly £700 in April, which is set to cause over 6 million households being thrown into fuel poverty. This is only more evidence of government’s foolish behaviour, this time, wasting taxpayer money bailing out massive fuel companies when they should be calling for a publicly owned energy supplier. Additional to a publicly-owned health service, it is the most economically sensible way to provide energy nationally.

The deliberate political decision to create a cost of living crisis for working people goes hand in hand with the underfunding and privatisation of the NHS. That’s why 26 February is an important avenue to raise the alarm over what’s being done to the NHS, but also to build the wider fightback against austerity, including the next wave of People’s Assembly protests on 5 March.

These past couple of years have been of heightened struggle for many, but in struggle there is an opportunity for change. We have seen some victories and U-turns. We have seen strikes in the NHS resulting in staff being brought in house and winning better conditions, so we know that the struggle is worth it. In truth we have to ask for what is ours, because we really have nothing left to lose but a system that so violently confines us.

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