All Quiet About the Western Front – the Spring Offensive and the NHS fight back


That this year is still the 100th anniversary of World War 1 seems to have escaped many people. 1918 was a momentous year, beginning with the onslaught of German Spring Offensive as their armies, freed from the Russian conflict, turned to the west.

Thanks largely to a restored Haig’s strategy and British fighting ability the offensive failed after two weeks. It was the beginning of the end for the Germans. Within 6 months the war was over. Victory had been snatched from the jaws of defeat. But the cost had been enormous, totalling nearly 180,000 British casualties – in just 15 days.

War in the trenches

This year we also celebrate the 70th anniversary of the NHS, and it is the year we must rescue the NHS from the chaos that Jeremy Hunt has plunged it into. Even the most incompetent British general could not have succeeded in demoralising his workforce the way our politicians have. The NHS is one of the largest and most successful organisations in the world. NHS England is five times the size of the Fifth Army, which held back the German Spring Offensive, yet it is treated as a plaything, an organisational laboratory for the neoliberal aspirations of the current government.

This great company could have treated all 600,000 casualties from the Spring Offensive, German and Allied, in just one day. That is how significant it is. Yet the government treats it with contempt, permitting the Secretary of State to behave exactly as the worst general in World War 1, dismissive of the employees, balkanisation of the assets, dreadful planning and supply, and the creation of crisis after crisis which the medical staff, like the exhausted troops in World War 1, have to cope with.

World War 1 lasted four terrible years. The Lansley bill was passed almost exactly 6 years ago on March 20th, 2012. This means that the dire mismanagement has now gone on for two years longer than the tragedy of the war. It now has to stop. We need to dismiss the failed strategy and its “generals”.

corridor medicine
Patients being treated in corridors – Lister hospital, Stevenage (Debs Thompson Facebook)

Where to begin? First, we challenge the obsession with targets, which only the witless and the control freaks deploy. It does not improve performance, but damages patient care in and promotes fear. We provide data showing its failure and the cost of that failure.

Then we demand that the NHS Reinstatement bill is debated and passed.

At this year’s Sheffield Festival of Debate begins with an NHS session on to how we do this on the afternoon of April 25th. It is called Saving the NHS for the Next Generation by stopping The Sovietisation of the NHS, signalling the start of our defence of the NHS – in Sheffield.