As NHS waiting lists grew to their longest in a decade, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is speaking out against cuts and privatisation at rallies in Tory constituencies.
He addressed 500 people at Filton near Bristol on Friday of last week and more than 1,000 in Cornwall last Thursday.
Corbyn slammed the attacks on the NHS. “It’s under threat from underfunding,” he said. “It’s under threat from privatisation. It’s under threat from an internal market.”
He ridiculed the Tories’ “crocodile tears” about “how wonderful the health service is” at the same time as capping health workers’ pay. “Pay them properly as well,” he said.
Corbyn spoke to a young and diverse crowd of about 1,000 people in Milton Keynes on Monday evening. The town has two marginal Tory MPs.
Socialist Gordon White said, “His speech largely touched upon all the key manifesto commitments. The crowd responded with loud applause to renewed commitments to funding a non-privatised NHS. He also talked about education—class sizes, primary school meals and the ending of university tuition fees. And he called for taxing the wealthy to pay for social housing.”
Around four million patients are stuck on NHS waiting lists, according to new figures released on Thursday of last week.
Some 1,500 patients waited more than a year. At accident and emergency, one patient in ten was not seen within four hours.
And these figures are for the summer months, when the pressures on the NHS are far lower than at winter.
The first phases of the Tories’ Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs), which will slash £22 billion from the NHS budget in England by 2020-21, are now being approved by health bosses.
The Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire West STP that went through this week highlights the scale of the threat.
It includes downgrading all acute in-patient services at the Horton General Hospital in Banbury. The hospital’s maternity and children’s wards, trauma and A&E departments would all be axed.
This would force patients with a serious condition to travel 28 miles to Oxford.
Corbyn is right to take the fight to the Tories on the NHS—and to continue mobilising people with mass rallies to lay the groundwork for a future general election.
But the fight for the NHS cannot wait for a future Labour government. We need strikes and protests now.
The People’s Assembly demonstration at the Tory Party conference in Manchester on 1 October and the Royal College of Nursing’s rally over pay on 6 September are key opportunities.