Over the past months we have seen a stream of stats and reports showing the extent of the mounting problems facing the NHS due to Tory austerity, which has meant cuts and persistent underfunding, and the accompanying crisis in social care, culminating with the Red Cross declaring a ‘humanitarian crisis’ in the NHS.
Teresa May’s response has been to bury her head in the sand.
But this crisis is of the Government’s making. These warnings of a crisis in the NHS are a consequence of the largest financial squeeze in the NHS’s history, meaning that by 2018 NHS spending per head will be falling.
The government is driving through £22 billion in cuts by 2020 and the NHS is already short of 50,000 front-line staff.
And as campaigners and trade unions warned, the Health and Social Care Act has both opened to door to systematic privatisation and wrought damage on our NHS and social care.
As Jeremy Corbyn put it this week, “The Conservatives are privatising our NHS by stealth despite the repeated failures and costs of private provision. “
The problem with this is that “privatisation fails our most valued national institution: the NHS. It saddles us with an expensive and unnecessary internal market. It puts tax avoidance, not patient care, at the heart of its management [and] it also promotes excessive boardroom pay and grotesque inequality.”
To give a few key statistics, in October the number of people waiting four hours or longer in major A&E departments was 214,617 compared to 46,467 in October 2010. 1.8 million people waited too long in 2015-16 compared to 353,617 in 2009/10.
The A&E target has been missed for 16 months in a row.
The number of patients being left to wait on trolleys for four hours or longer has increased by over 600 per cent.
The number on the waiting list in England is estimated at 3.9 million.
Just one of the UK’s 13 ambulance services is able to meet the target of reaching emergencies within eight minutes.
A record numbers of patients in the NHS are delayed on discharge and one third of those are due to lack of social care.
Indeed, accompanying the crisis in the NHS itself there is an ever-deepening crisis of social care, with one in 10 people over 50 not having their care needs met.
Meanwhile, the Tories refused to find a single penny of extra cash for the NHS or social care in this winter’s Autumn Statement.
The austerity project as a whole also makes pressures worse on the NHS and social care, due to increases in inequality and poverty.
To give one shocking example, the number of hospital beds take by patients being treated for malnutrition has trebled in recent years.
Furthermore, the Tories expect the NHS to find £22bn of further “efficiency savings” through the so-called “sustainability and transformation” plans (STPs) — slash, trash and privatise as the Unite union has branded them — which many believe will lead to further closures and cuts in front-line care.
In contrast to the Tories, Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaign last summer pledged Labour to give the NHS the money it needs, and to join up services in a holistic approach with a properly integrated health and social care service.
It is more important than ever for us to fight for a Labour government that will both stand up for our health service and fund the NHS properly, but we also need to get active campaigning to save our NHS now - -please join your local Labour Party campaign day for the NHS on Saturday January 21 and join the national demonstration in London on Saturday March 4.
You can get full details of, and sign up for the Labour bloc on, the March 4 demonstration at https://www.facebook.com/events/344476709265118/
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