New Internationalist

The battle to save the NHS is not over!

Photo by Byzantine_K under a CC Licence.

I recently wrote a blog about the pending Health Bill which would effectively privatize the NHS. Well, the Bill was passed in Parliament and became law. This means the NHS has been abolished in all but name.

All the work and effort that went in to building it up, all the money that people have paid into it, all the ties of social solidarity that it has fostered have been squandered away in a right-wing ideological frenzy.

The campaign against the Bill – heroic as it was – failed. The campaign against the Act can’t afford to. Up to now the battle has been fought largely at the national level. The next phase will be about local action and new strategies for resistance will emerge as the Act becomes reality.

One thing is guaranteed: there will be chaos in the health service. This will not be one of those battles that fade into memory once the legislation is implemented; it will remain urgent and visible (there is already, effectively, a two-tier service).

Things were going to be bad in the health service anyway, with the NHS being required to make £20 billion of cuts. Combine this with a messy transition to a new system that hasn’t even been fully devised yet and the outcome will lead to many individual disasters.

As Richard Horton, the editor of the Lancet medical magazine writes: ‘People will die thanks to the government’s decision to focus on competition rather than quality in healthcare.’

Those are the stakes.

So, turn off your TV, get out there and TOGETHER we can reverse this travesty. This is our chance, quite possibly our only chance, to salvage our publicly funded, publicly provided health service.

The Conservatives are dragging the country back into a pre-war ‘dark age’ where the sick, the disabled, the elderly and the unemployed are mistreated, neglected, discriminated against and otherwise left to rot. Not to mention channeling ever more wealth into the hands of the rich and scheming to deny everyone access to public, freely available and quality healthcare.

Aneurin Bevan said of the health service: ‘It will survive as long as there are folk with the faith to fight for it’.

It’s now up to us.

For ways to join the campaign to save the NHS go to Keep Our NHS Public, Save NHS Direct and 38 Degrees.

With thanks to Alex Nunns.

Comments on The battle to save the NHS is not over!

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  1. #1 Phil Vanes 03 Apr 12

    I have recently been attending various Age UK meetings in order to try and prevent Dudley’s Conservative controlled Council from closing New Bradley Hall Care Home in Kingswinford.

    At the last meeting I went to, somebody raised a very interesting point that never crossed my mind and got everybody else thinking as well.

    This person pointed out that we are slowly being nudged into a society where all public services are being privatised and if all the care homes in Dudley were eventually to become private, what would prevent the care home providers getting together, forming a cartel and then increasing their care charges in the same way that the Gas, Water, Electric and Train industries have.

    What would the Council do? What could they do?

    They would either do nothing or else they would have to increase their subsidy to the care home providers and recoup the cost via the Council Tax.

    Either way we will all end up paying more.

    So for all our sakes, please raise this point with your prospective Councillor at your forthcoming election and ensure that as many care homes remain open and in Local Authority ownership as possible.

  2. #2 Alan 03 Apr 12

    I'd like to support all Phil says. And add a message I received recently from a friend of mine in Toronto, Canada. It's clear that what is going on here is happening in Canada too. This is what he wrote:

    Our extreme right wing Tory Government just released their budget. It's another step to destroying the last 60 years of social progress in this country. Wide-open doors to business, slash foreign aid, gut state regulatory agencies, cut public sector jobs, reduce corporate taxes, on and on...
    And the electorate actually gave them a majority!
    But who was it said, don't agonize, organize?

    We HAVE to get off our arses and get organized and fight back. Before it's too late.

  3. #3 Alan 03 Apr 12

    Here are some of the early ideas that health campaigners are discussing for how to move things forward in defending the NHS:

    1) Local campaigners want to do something – fighting the Bill generated huge amounts of energy that must be sustained – but it’s difficult to know where to focus in the new system. GPs will be the group with the most power to frustrate the implementation of the Act, and they are much more likely to do so if they feel pressure from their patients. So we should have a campaign to get people to ask their new CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group) to adopt a statement that commits it to treat the NHS as its preferred provider to protect local NHS facilities, to refuse to sign contracts that involve commercial confidentiality, and to take all decisions openly in public. There is no reason for clinicians, who all opposed the Bill, to disagree with these pledges. And if the government intervenes it will give the lie to all the talk of local control and their denials of privatisation.

    2) Encourage people to get involved in patient participation groups at their GP surgery, to tell their GPs to resist the market elements of the Act by favouring local NHS hospitals over private facilities. Health Watch bodies and foundation trust boards also offer some opportunities to influence how the Act is implemented, or at least to monitor what is happening.

    3) We need a central point for people to report local cuts and the loss of services (when patients are told they can’t have a certain treatment), so we can keep track of the real effects of the Act after the media has moved on. Somewhere like 38 Degrees would be perfect for this – a high profile website that can store and display all the information.

    4) Every time a service is cut or removed, we should contrast government statements saying that this wouldn’t happen with a quote from a patient who is suffering. This should be disseminated in every way, via the internet, mailings, billboards.

    5) ‘Occupy Healthcare’ – physically occupy facilities that are threatened with closure, in a way that doesn’t obstruct patient care. Hold local anti-cuts protests, always making the link back to the Act.

    6) Expose which facilities are run for profit, and make local patients aware of it.

  4. #4 Dave Harrison 03 Apr 12

    The NHS CANNOT be allowed to die and we must all keep fighting to keep it alive. Remember the Poll Tax. People took to the streets to defeat that piece of Thatcher legislation and eventually it was overturned and ultimately led to the demise of that wicked woman. If it means similar direct action then let's do it and if the people who work for the health service are serious about saving it then they should be the standard bearers. The Tories want to dismantle public services to line the pockets of their rich cohorts but the NHS is a treasured part of this country and the envy of the rest of the world. Bevan described the Tories who opposed the NHS as ’lower than vermin.’ I can think of no better weay of describing the current Coalition partners who are hell bent on destroying his finest legacy.

  5. #5 Alex Ashman 28 Jun 12

    You might just be interested in [a href=’’]

  6. #6 MitchellSexner 04 Sep 13

    When basic medical care cannot be provided to the people, chaos erupts. Friends would usually seek basic healthcare outside of the UK, as it is faster and more efficient. Some would seek it from private institutions, but it is way more expensive than flying out of the country. When I was handling most of the cases of medical malpractice section at the firm, I have met with people who did not only seek cosmetic surgery outside of the UK but also basic healthcare for the same reasons – lower costs, more efficient, and better quality of service. I just hope that this move would improve and not deteriorate the entire medical system.

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About the author

Alan Hughes a New Internationalist contributor

Alan Hughes was a graphic artist at New Internationalist. He retired in 2014. He is a life-long socialist and trade unionist and is currently involved in the Keep Our NHS Public Campaign. He is passionate about The Beatles and has supported Aston Villa FC for over 50 years. He lives in Oxford with his daughter.

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