This Thursday 5th July marks the 70th anniversary of the NHS. Every Labour member will point to the NHS as our proudest achievement. In 1948 after the second world war, the Labour government created a universal healthcare service for all on the basis of need, free at the point of use.
NHS workers must get thanked this week, for working in increasingly stretched conditions, for always going the extra mile to give people the care they need and for putting up with just about everyone in this country assuming they know more about the NHS than those who work in it!
It’s also a time for all of us to consider how important it is that our NHS is free at the point of use, and the care provided doesn’t depend on a person’s bank balance. We know its under threat and slowly being undermined, privatised, and pulled apart. Four more years of Tories in charge could leave us with barely the same NHS that was envisioned by Nye Bevan 70 years ago.
Right now we can see clearly symptoms of it not working, there are 100,000 vacancies in the NHS. Last year 33,000 Nurses left the NHS 3,000 less than were recruited. Its easy to see why, more work, less pay, more pressure, less valued. Waiting lists are continuing to grow, and during the winter crisis people were being treated in corridors, with some patients saying it was like being treated in a war zone.
Significant amounts of public money going into the NHS is going straight out to private providers profits, and PFIs. But we must remember, this was always the plan of the 2012 Health and Social Care Act, aiming to put competition of private providers at the centre and rather than the health of the nation. We shouldn’t forget its architects and remember a very biased media churning out loads of unfounded negative stories about the NHS in the run up to the vote.
But regardless of the dreadful reforms, year on year since 2010 the government as spend less on the NHS as a % of GDP. And then there is the issue of social care. Many of us know from our experience, that if our loved ones can’t get the care they need in the home they have to stay in hospital. This means beds shortages, and is unnecessary if we had the social care needed and it was properly integrated with the NHS.
And it’s only going to get worse. In Gloucestershire the 18-64 working adult age group is predicted to increase by only 1.4% by 2034, the numbers of over 65s will increase by 67% in the same period. Massively fewer numbers of adults available to work in the Care Sector. Year on year we are seeing greater demand for Adult Social Care. Since 2010, councils have dealt with a £6 billion funding gap in adult social care services. This has been met through £3.4 billion of savings to adult social care and £2.6 billion taken from additional savings to other services.
There is no reason the NHS can’t be properly funded. Austerity was a ideologically and politically motivated response to the shock of the financial crash. It has destroyed our public services, which has only made pressure on the NHS greater. Public health budgets have been slashed, resulting in us not prioritising preventative care, but instead being on the back foot with treating an increasingly sick nation.
And the government continues to treat the public as fools, a few weeks ago the government thought it could get away with a PR stunt announcing a brexit dividend as a suddenly discovered source of funding for the NHS and we are all meant to be celebrating! Below I explain why I think the government should be held to account.
So on Thursday, and Friday, and Saturday we must thank NHS and care workers for their work. And let’s remember we still need to fight to protect our beloved NHS.