We will never know how many patients will have died or will die because the Prime Minister is prepared to uphold austerity measures in the face of the worst crisis to hit the NHS for many years. Home Secretary, Mrs May forced through cuts in police budgets and she is now prepared to face out calls from many distinguished health figures warning of the consequences if the NHS does not receive an immediate emergency cash injection.
The announcement that medical students are being persuaded to assist the NHS crisis is a further indication of deteriorating health services under austerity.
Another example of the utter policy failure of the May government is to be seen in the removal of student nurse bursaries that funded their study and help with living costs. The nursing shortfall caused by years of undersupply is at further risk of worsening if Brexit affects international recruitment.
Beyond the current NHS austerity crisis there is the advent of “Accountable Care Organisations” that would introduce new commercial non-NHS bodies to run health and social services without proper public consultation and without full parliamentary scrutiny. Currently the Courts have agreed to a Judicial Review, made possible by public funds. These ACOs would represent the breaking up of a single national health service with national terms and conditions, into 44 sub-regions with fixed restricted budgets and rationed services. This implies a loss of all the principles behind the NHS, a loss of universalism, comprehensiveness, national terms and conditions and quality standards. Even if they were wholly in the public centre that would be the case. And public ACOs would still very clearly be a stepping stone towards patient selection, personal health budgets, co-payments, charges, insurance and ultimately privatisation.
In this, the year of NHS 70, we must be ready to celebrate but also to strongly PROTEST at the extreme threats to our beloved NHS.
As Nye Bevan, the creator of our national health service said: “Illness is neither an indulgence for which people should have to pay, nor an offence for which they should be penalised, but a misfortune , the cost of which should be shared by the community”.