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March for Our NHS, 2017. Photo: Jim Aindow

March for Our NHS, 2017. Photo: Jim Aindow

The future of the NHS is in danger and it can only be defended through collective action, argues Lucy Nichols 

Recently released figures show that admissions for routine operations were 82% down in May compared to 2019. To spell out what this means, only 54,550 patients were admitted in May this year, as compared to  295,881 last year.

This appalling fact will of course have led to thousands of unnecessary deaths and suffering for tens of thousands.

It also reveals the uncomfortable truth that during the period of coronavirus, the NHS has effectively been suspended as a universal health service. 

For years, the NHS has been subject not just to funding restrictions but to systematic privatisation and outsourcing, with successive governments selling off elements of the service to the highest bidder. This has resulted in a health service stripped to its bare bones, unable to look after some of its most vulnerable patients.

Even before the coronavirus, years of Tory cuts had left the NHS barely able to cope. We are now in the middle of a pandemic that has taken tens of thousands of lives, and we are speeding towards an economic crisis that is likely to have a devastating impact on services across the board and in particular on NHS funding.

Quite simply, the future of the NHS is in danger. 

NHS Staff Voices, a network of health workers, is hosting a conference on Saturday 18 July open to anyone who works for the NHS to discuss this situation and how to respond. The conference will bring together NHS workers from all over the country to discuss how best to defend the vital service from Tory austerity and privatisation. 

As Alia Butt, one of the conference organisers explains:

'We love the NHS and everything it stands for. But it is under threat, and it has been for years. We have all seen how austerity and privatisation have left the NHS incapable of managing, particularly in times of hardship. Things won't get better unless we take collective action. Covid19 has swept away the sand we have been hiding our heads under and has left us wondering what is coming next and how we will manage. There is massive popular support for the NHS and widespread concern amongst staff members. It is time for us to get organised to try and build an effective campaign across the NHS.'

It is important that as many health workers as possible attend this conference which is backed by Keep Our NHS Public and The People's Assembly, and that everyone on the left and the wider movement publicises it. 

Millions have clapped the NHS in the last few months, now it needs defending.  

You can register for the conference here.

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