Socialist Worker

The Tories’ NHS cash pledge can’t mask their assault on the NHS

The health service faces a deep financial crisis that puts patients at risk. And for all George Osborne’s rhetoric, the Tories are demanding yet more cuts and selloffs, says Tomáš Tengely-Evans

Issue No. 2432

Health workers on strike in Chesterfield, Derbyshire

Health workers on strike in Chesterfield, Derbyshire (Pic: James Eaden)


Tory chancellor George Osborne has claimed that the government will give the NHS a £2 billion “lifeline”.

The NHS is in financial meltdown—and the Tories upping their smoke and mirrors game isn’t going to save it.

England’s health boss Simon Stevens warned that the NHS is facing an £8 billion black hole.

The Tories said the funding was a “down payment” for the five year plan that Stevens is bringing in.  

His “five year plan” involves more privatisation. And the promised cash falls far short of what’s needed.

In reality, this “extra” cash has come from pushing through more cuts across government departments.

The largest chunk—£750 million—has been raided from the Department of Health’s own budget.

Osborne said that £1.1 billion would be given on top of this to “modernise” GP surgeries. 

But this is also a one-off sum raised from the banks’ fine for rigging the international Libor interest rate. 

The NHS is becoming one of the main battlegrounds for next year’s general election.

Labour

The Labour leadership is backing a private members’ bill against NHS privatisation. It says it would repeal Section 75 rules of the hated Health and Social Care Act, which make tendering of NHS contracts compulsory. 

This reflects that the NHS is still ahead of immigration as ordinary people’s main concern. 

But Labour remains committed to Tory spending cuts—and now health secretary Jeremy Hunt has demanded that the NHS “saves" £10 billion a year. 

This will partly be done through cutting down on agency staff, which will make the staffing crisis worse.

The latest scandals in mental health services last week gave a grim snapshot of what the meltdown means (see box, right).

Mental health services have always been underresourced. 

While the Tories’ claim that mental health services are now a priority, the reality is that they are past breaking point. 

But health workers and campaigners are fighting back against such attacks. 

The Tories have been forced to shelve their plans to restructure accident and emergency (A&E) units, amid warnings that it would cause a massive backlash. 

Health workers’ walkouts last month showed what the alternative is, and that there’s a potential to build a serious fightback in the NHS.

Workers are fighting over pay—but they hope their action can also help defend the NHS.

The Unison union is considering calling further strikes in the new year.

Any action by health workers would win widespread support across the trade union movement.

Every trade unionist and campaigner now needs to push for more action that can win.

 


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