This week Unite, alongside Your NHS Needs You and Diem 25, has unveiled billboards, ad vans and bus stops across the so-called ‘red wall’ that will carry direct messages to voters in constituencies where their Tory MP voted for the Health and Care Bill last year.
We have more members in some of those targeted constituencies than the MP’s majority and we will be targeting them as a part of a series of actions up and down the country during our NHS month of action, which runs throughout February, to highlight the impact the Health and Care Bill will have.
So called Red wall seats have some of the longest NHS waiting times and unmet health needs and the advert messages carry a picture of each MP, stating: ‘Last year, your MP [name] voted for NHS privatisation. This year, tell [him/her] to vote against the toxic Health and Care Bill’.
Unite members living in the constituency will also receive an email asking them to contact their MP.
Later in February, Unite will team up with SOS:NHS to hold actions across England, including stalls in high streets and outside hospitals, highlighting the disastrous impact of the Bill.
Our NHS and social care systems in England have faced decades of funding shortages and are now under sustained and serious attack from the government, facing multiple reorganisations at a time of pandemic crisis.
Instead of desperately needed direct investment in our health and care services, including more funding, more staff and more beds to achieve stability and recovery, the catastrophic Bill will further destabilise and fracture services.
It will cut medical and emergency services and force people to pay for their health care, while those who can’t will go without.
Just last week, private healthcare firm reported an 81 per cent increase nationwide in patients funding their own treatment in the second three months of 2021, compared to the same period in 2019.
Still more private companies, including ones owned by US corporations, will be enabled by the Bill to take over services, leading to a postcode lottery, with those firms making decisions on how much to charge for services, and which ones to cut, while taking money directly away from frontline health care into their profits.
We know this isn’t about improving health care. For the Tories it is all about profits for private shareholders.
With NHS waiting lists at a record six million in England, a staffing and funding crisis and the impact of the pandemic on an already struggling service, all of our focus must be on recovery and stability – our NHS cannot sustain the current level of attacks from this government.
As our general secretary Sharon Graham says, “While our members and their families in England are being told to expect NHS waiting lists to rise for years to come, the government’s priority is to pave the way for further disastrous privatisation. Every time private companies run NHS services, they put profits before patients who pay the price.”
That’s why we’re calling on these Tory MPs to put their constituents before their private sector mates and vote to junk the Bill.
Of course, it is unlikely they will, and Unite will have to continue to fight these big corporate money moves step by step inside the NHS, to protect our members and society and to defeat the Health and Care Bill.
Support our campaign by getting involved. Lobby your MP to oppose the Bill and sign up for more information about our day of action.
By Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe, Unite national officer for health
- This comment first appeared in the Morning Star on February 14.