As we goes to press we await the announcement of further industrial action by junior doctors.
Throughout the last year they have at the forefront of exposing the Government’s desire to asset strip the NHS. Now leaked documents from the Department of Health have vindicated their fight; these documents show how disastrous the government’s plans for the NHS really are. During a year long campaign and eight days of industrial action junior doctors shouted loudly that the plan for a seven-day NHS was not safe or even unachiveable.
These Department of Health documents say there has been lack of detailed costings, a lack of risk assessment, and a lack of evidence and data to support the seven-day policy. Crucially, they also say it is doubtful enough skilled staff can be found to deliver the new service. Already the NHS is warning of serious gaps in hospital rotas, that thousands of operations and appointments may have to be cancelled to stop the NHS grinding to a halt this winter. Jeremy Hunt was the main driving force for pushing through a new contract for junior doctors linked to the seven-day service.
Meanwhile, unfortunately “Sustainability and Transformation Plans” for the NHS are being drawn up behind closed doors. The plans are being prompted by growing deficits in local NHS Trusts.
Research by the Guardian and 38 Degrees projects a financial shortfall of about £20 billion by 2020-21 if no action is taken. The stated object, of the plans — to “modernise” the NHS — is but a cover for massive cuts. These plans threaten every hospital, GP practice and community service across the country. Similar to the attacks on councils undertaken by the last government NHS organisations have been given a directive: if you do not make huge cuts we will make you bankrupt. Even the centre-right health think tanks are up in arms. The King’s Fund points to the fact that reorganisations of acute hospital services rarely save money. The Nuffield Trust argues that even with service reorganisation there will still be sick people, and they still need to go somewhere for treatment. That costs money.
The upshot is that more and more treatment will be provided by the private sector. If the NHS starts to fail, contracts for NHS business (“looking after sick people”) will go to private health care companies. The privatisation foreshadowed by the Health and Social Care Act (2012) is now here. Junior doctors will almost certainly be on strike this autumn, still fighting to save their terms and conditions from the government’s drive for uncosted, unplanned and unsafe changes.
In that campaign Jeremy Corbyn’s pledge for a future Labour government to “renationalise” the health service is very welcome. Corbyn proposes to make the NHS fully publicly funded, to bring services provided privately “back into public hands”, to end PFI contracts in the NHS and restore publicly-funded bursaries for nurses. That’s what we need. Junior doctors need our full support, because it is clear the Conservatives do not want to stop at just the junior doctors. But we need to go further and fast. We need to build support for the politics outlined by Corbyn on the NHS.
For a labour movement campaign to save the NHS
Momentum NHS will hold a rally in the evening of Monday 26 September at the World Transformed event being held by Momentum at Labour Party conference in Liverpool. Speakers include Shadow Health Secretary Diane Abbott, BMA junior doctors’ leader Yannis Gourtsoyannis, renowned fighter for the health service Harry Leslie Smith and a representative from the campaign to save Liverpool Women’s Hospital.
One purpose of the rally (and of other activities Momentum NHS will be organising in Liverpool) is to mobilise support for the strong policy to fight for and rebuild the NHS which socialist health activists are seeking to get onto the conference agenda. Another is to launch Momentum’s national campaign for the NHS, mobilising groups and activists across the country.
The opportunity to strengthen Labour’s stance and mobilise wide layers of labour movement activists to defend the NHS comes at a crucial time, when the health service is suffering blow after blow — but also when the coup against Corbyn has freed the Labour leadership’s hands to radicalise their message and when the junior doctors are about to launch a new wave of strikes.
What you can do
• Get your CLP to submit this model resolution to Labour Party conference (the deadline to submit is 15 September)
• Come to the rally and events and help out at Labour Party conference
• Raise the campaign in your local Momentum group and invite a speaker: email us here
• If you’re a health or care worker or NHS campaigner, add your name to the statement to re-elect Jeremy Corbyn, already signed by almost 750 people
• Mobilise your local Labour Party, Momentum, etc, in support of the junior doctors’ strikes, visit picket lines, etc.
With the Labour right attempting to pose as the champions of the NHS, this is a crucial battle field not only in its own right, but in terms of the political future of the labour movement. Let’s create the mass movement which can save the NHS.