The NHS recently celebrated its 70th year of providing free health care. Many of us, myself included, owe our lives to this incredible service. Now we must fight to save the NHS from systemic underfunding and privatisation.

By Alan Bolwell

The Prime Minister has announced that the NHS in England will receive a funding increase totalling £20.5 billion in real terms by 2023/24, which will be funded in part from a “Brexit dividend”. The Prime Minister has also said that “across the nation taxpayers will have to contribute a bit more in a fair and balanced way to support the NHS we all use”. The specifics of how this will work haven’t yet been outlined.

This seemingly good news has been met by accusations both of fiscal irresponsibility by the likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg, and of falling short of what is required to maintain the NHS at current levels by NHS Trusts.   

The £20.5 billion investment is yet to be costed – nobody is sure how much the UK will save by ending payments to the EU and any dividend is likely to be offset by costs associated with Britain leaving the EU, such as payments for access to the Single Market.

Last month, the Institute for Fiscal Studies released a report which found that to keep the NHS at the same standard as it is now would require around £42 billion by 2033/34. It said: “it looks like there is limited potential elsewhere for making cuts that could compensate for rises in health spending”.

Other suggestions include changes to taxation – either freezing tax thresholds or increasing taxes in order to raise the money – and increasing borrowing.

A local nurse recently told HIP: “Nobody should be surprised that there’s a funding crisis. We’ve been saying it for years. For years. There’s no such thing as a winter crisis, it’s an all-year-round crisis. The people in charge have been saying this for years. We’ve now got social care patients that are having to go in medical beds, medical patients that are going in surgical beds – which cost hundreds a day – and surgical patients that don’t have beds. And that’s how we make money for the NHS, by doing surgeries. Which is why they’ve stopped us doing these surgeries: hernias, breast reductions, varicose veins, tonsil removals. This is going to cause longer-term problems for these people further down the line and they’ll end up needing social care. It’s not a surprise. It’s deliberate. They’re trying to make us all go private.”

Another added, “The issue is we have fewer hospitals, A&E departments and beds. Social care has less funding, along with mental health services. People are living longer and have complex needs. There are just under 35,000 unfilled nursing posts in the UK. This is only going to increase. The NHS has had a massive hit with Brexit. A lot of very good nurses and doctors have left because of it.”

This is corroborated by GP and author of How to dismantle the NHS in 10 easy steps Youssef El-Gingihy, who recently wrote an article for The Independent entitled Theresa May’s NHS funding birthday present is a Trojan horse for privatisation – here’s the proof, in which he warns of private companies running merged ‘super-hospitals’ and the potential inroads for insurance companies in the suggested £20b investment package:

“In the wake of the Health and Social Care Act, 2012, the percentage of NHS outsourcing to the private sector has doubled from four per cent in 2009-10 to eight per cent in 2015-16. While foundation trusts …
make up to half their income from private patients… a two-tier system is already in place.”

“[H]ospital trusts across the country are facing closures, mergers and downgrades. Hundreds of GP surgeries have closed with hundreds more set to close. Forty per cent of walk-in centres have shut since 2010. The combination of £40bn in efficiency savings (cuts) and billions siphoned off towards privatisation… has led to increased rationing of care available on the NHS.”

“[N]on-NHS, non-statutory bodies could be handed 10 to 15-year multibillion-pound contracts for health and social care for whole regions.”

“The perpetual NHS crisis has been manufactured by deliberate policies.”

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