Unite has joined with Your NHS Needs You to force a debate in parliament, after over 135,000 people signed a petition calling for the health service to be renationalised. It also demands that integrated care systems be scrapped and PFI contracts ended. Stockton South MP Matt Vickers, a Conservative member of the petitions committee, will open the debate in Westminster Hall from 6pm today (January 31).
The debate comes ahead of February’s month of action on the health and care bill, which will see Unite, alongside campaign groups including the newly formed SOS:NHS, put pressure on the government to stop the bill and instead invest directly in our NHS.
Unite and YNNY are launching a series of actions targeting Tory MPs in ‘Red Wall’ seats who voted for the bill and for NHS privatisation when it was in the House of Commons last November. Unite also plans a day of action on February 26th, when members of the Community section, along with members of Unite in Health – which represents over 100,000 health service workers across all occupations and professional groups – will hold street stalls in target constituency high streets and outside hospitals to highlight the tsunami of attacks the NHS is facing.
Our NHS and social care system 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 health and care bill will further destabilise and fracture services.
This bill breaks NHS England into 42 different pieces, each one deciding what services to offer. This means different services in each piece, with some vital health needs available in some places but not others, creating a postcode lottery for treatments and making it difficult for patients to get the care they need.
The legislation will further cut medical and emergency services and force people to pay for their health care, while those who can’t will go without. It will allow more private companies, including ones owned by US corporations, to take over services – including by making decisions on what services to cut, what the overall budgets are and how local health care is run. Money will be taken away from frontline health care to go into profits. The bill also caps adult social care costs at £86,000, which will hit the average household and disabled workers hard, while leaving the rich protected.
From the personal protective equipment VIP lane to the Tories just last week handing hundreds of millions of pounds to private health firms, despite even the NHS chief executive warning against using public money in this way, we know this government will use any and every opportunity to take money from our already struggling NHS and give it to their mates in the private sector. This isn’t about improving health care – it simply boosts profits for private shareholders.
With NHS waiting lists at a record six million in England, a staffing and funding crisis, and the pandemic having an ongoing impact 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 and both staff and patients will suffer.
Unite will continue to lead the fight for our 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 health and care bill and sign up for more information about our day of action.
By Jacalyn Williams
This comment first appeared on Labour List on January 27.