Socialist Worker

Bedside robots are no replacement for NHS funding and human workforce

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2608

Replacing humands with robots is emotionally dangerous

Replacing humands with robots is "emotionally dangerous" (Pic: Salford Institute for Dementia)


Seventy years since it was founded, the NHS is in crisis.

Health bosses announced another cost-cutting scheme to deal with the growing pressures on the NHS last week—“care bots” to replace trained medics.

A report, due to be published on 19 June, will call for “full automation” of health and social care services.

Bedside robots will supposedly free up hard-pressed health workers to care for patients more effectively.

The proposals are part of a growing desire by health and social care bosses to introduce artificial intelligence (AI).

Any new technology that advances patient care and health workers’ ability to deliver it should be publicly funded and developed.

But Maggie Boden, professor of Cognitive Science, warned last month that replacing humans with robots was “emotionally dangerous” in social care services.

“I suggest that the machine wouldn’t understand what we mean by a best friend, or loyalty,” she said.

The real problems in the NHS won’t be dealt with unless the root causes of its growing crisis.

Years of Tory cuts and privatisation have put the NHS into a critical condition as it approaches the 70th anniversary of its founding on 5 July.

This is made worse by racism. More than 2,300 doctors have been refused work visas just in the last five months.

Labour has announced plans for more health funding and to make the NHS the “preferred provider” of health services. But saving the NHS means going further—scrapping the money-wasting “internal market” and fully renationalising health and social care services.

That’s why it is right to fight for the NHS now, not wait for the next general election in the hope of a Labour government.

Every trade unionist, every health campaigner and everyone concerned about the NHS should join the NHS@70 demonstration in central London on 30 June.

NHS@70 demo, 30 June, 12 noon, Portland Place, London W1A 1AA

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