The Daily Mail’s serialisation of Michael Ashcroft’s unauthorised “revenge biography” of David Cameron, with its revelations of “posh debauchery” by the future Prime Minister and his friends when at Oxford University, continuing into later life, were, depending on your point of view, amusing, or further proof of the vileness of the ruling class.
Unfortunately the “Chipping Snorton set” (as the Daily Mail put it) kept a much more serious story off the front pages of the papers. This was how Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge had been downgraded by the Care Quality Commission. It has gone from being a top ranking hospital to being an inadequate one, and it has been taken into “special measures”.
But the story highlights how the government is destroying the entire NHS.
According to Polly Toynbee (Guardian 22 September), Addenbroke’s is routinely over-run with emergency patients and that has proved its undoing as far as the CQC is concerned. It is just not coping with increasing numbers.
But the three major problems the hospital faces are not unique to Addenbrooke’s. These are cuts, cuts, and cuts.
First, cuts in social care means beds are taken up by frail and elderly patients. And of course there are not enough beds.
Second, cuts in nursing training and the blocking of visas for non-EU nurses means there are not enough staff. And because the local Trust relies on agency staff to cover itself, costs have spiralled and it has found itself with huge debts.
Third, the money the Trust gets from the government, like the rest of the NHS, does not match the needs of the population. NHS England has calculated it is £22 billion short of what it needs.
The problems in Cambridge — staff shortages and spiralling debts — are very similar to those at Barts Health NHS Trust (the biggest in the country) which has also been placed in special measures. Except Barts, like many other NHS Trusts was also saddled with impossibly high re-payments on a PFI scheme.
Last year all NHS organisations (hospitals, mental health trusts, community providers and ambulances combined) end up £800 million in deficit. Meanwhile the NHS is being told to make £22 billion in “efficiency savings”.
The new leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, has said we need to “remove the PFI burden from the NHS – this really was our mess, and we have to clear it up”. Absolutely right. In fact Labour should make campaigning for the NHS central to its political opposition to the Tories
For 60 years the NHS has been a beacon of solidarityy. Over the last thirty years — as David Cameron’s class systematically destroyed the welfare state, cut benefits, social services and made young people pay to get a higher education — it has survived. Because it survived it has done a lot to keep alive the ideas of equality and humanity in the face of the cruelty and ruthlessness of neo-liberal capitalist orthodoxy.
But the NHS may not survive five more years, the years until the next election.
The fight to save the NHS and to restore everything was have lost over the last thirty years must start now. We meed groups of Corbyn supporters to organise into activist groups to transform local Labour Parties and to organise to stop cuts in local areas. We need trade union activists to push for their unions to raise the political pressure inside Labour.
As part of building and consolidating local groups and campaigns we need the biggest possible mobilisation on 4 October outside Tory party conference in Manchester.
That protest needs to have clear, socialist demands:
Tax the rich harder. Nationalise the banks and big financial institutions to create a public banking system;
Scrap PFI. Rebuild the NHS as a public service. Run this and all services under democratic workers’ and community control.