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Issue #1768      March 8, 2017

The fight for the NHS

Thousands gathered in London last week for the largest national mobilisation in NHS history. The demonstration, called by the People’s Assembly and Health Campaigns Together, came as the NHS faces its biggest crisis since its birth in 1948.

A staggering £22 billion will be slashed from the NHS budget by 2020 under the explosive Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs), which were drawn up behind closed doors and kept secret from the public.

Nineteen hospitals are set to close, one in six Accident and Emergencies (A&E) will shut, thousands of beds will be axed and a “dangerously understaffed” NHS will see thousands more jobs cut.

Drawn up by former UnitedHealth boss and Tony Blair adviser Simon Stevens as part of the Five Year Forward View, the plans have been slammed as a “blueprint for privatisation” that “will see the end of the NHS as we know it.”

The NHS posted a record £2.45 billion deficit last year as local NHS bosses desperately try to balance the books.

And it is a crisis that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn warns was “made in Downing Street.”

Research published by the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine argued that 30,000 deaths in 2015 were caused by “relentless cuts” to the health service as Professor Martin McKee warned “the impact of cuts resulting from the imposition of austerity on the NHS has been profound.”

A staggering one in 10 hospital beds have been lost since 2010, the equivalent of 24 hospitals, amounting to five beds a day since the Tories came to power.

A shocking 96 percent of hospitals have reported a shortage of nurses – and this figure is set to be exacerbated with a 23 percent drop in applications for nurse training since the NHS bursary was axed.

Hospital inspectors from the CQC warned only this week that our NHS is “standing on a burning platform” as they found four out of five NHS trusts to be unsafe.

And as Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt advises people to see their GP instead of going to A&E, the British Medical Association (BMA) points to an astonishing 650 GP surgeries that have been closed, merged or taken over since 2010 – with a further 600 set to be axed by 2020.

Corbyn told the crowds: “The NHS is in crisis – a crisis made in Downing Street. They’ve found the money to cut taxes on big businesses, cut taxes on the richest families, cut taxes for the speculators and cut taxes for the fat cats. Don’t then tell us there’s no more money for our NHS.

“There is no excuse. Every person waiting in A&E. Every person on a trolley in a corridor. Every student nurse forced to visit a foodbank to make ends meet. Every elderly person denied the care they need. Every time, that is a political choice.”

He urged the government to “give the NHS and social care the funding it needs” ahead of the coming Budget.

Unison executive member and one of the demo’s organisers Jac Berry warned against further pay restraint with the government set to announce this year’s pay award on Wednesday.

“If we are unable to break the one percent pay restrain then the trade unions must organise for co-ordinated industrial action to defend pay and the NHS as a whole,” she told the Star.

“The government has a politically motivated agenda against the NHS and attacks on pay are part of privatisation plans.”

Morning Star

Next article – Film Review – The Great Wall

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