On 3 July health workers and supporters across the country will be marking the 73rd anniversary of the creation of the NHS by protesting for patient safety, for pay justice and against privatisation: see here
The official NHS Pay Review Body has still not made its recommendation for pay from April 2021. It was due in May. It was delayed until “mid-June”, then “some time in June”, and then... The absolute deadline seems to be 22 July. The Tories want to limit pay rises to 1%. NHS Workers Say No! and Nurses United demand a 15% rise with a minimum of £3,000.
Across the NHS one-in-eleven posts are unfilled. In social care the vacancy rate is even higher. There are 10% fewer GPs per patient than five years ago. The resulting service cuts and workload pressures are breaking our already faltering health services. 90% of NHS employers admit that workforce shortages are risking patient care and safety. It is likely to get worse. NHS workers, exhausted by the pandemic, are more likely to quit their jobs.
Matt Hancock’s hypocrisy over covid-distancing was a tiny part of his abuse of the NHS. He has overseen a massive transfer of public funding into private hands for profit. £14.4bn, 12% of the NHS budget, went to private healthcare firms in 2020. Another £10bn has recently been agreed for private hospitals to take NHS patients from waiting lists.
When Serco’s Rupert Soames said the pandemic could go “a long way to cementing the position of private sector companies in the public sector supply chain”, the government listened. We can expect more of the same from the new health secretary, Sajid Javid. He comes directly from a £150,000 part time job (80 hours a year!) for J P Morgan, a bank which advises those private health profiteers.
Activists need to use this week’s protests, and the next month, to build cross-union networks in our workplaces. We must continue to convince other health workers of the need and possibilities for taking industrial action, and to build pressure on our trade unions for a decisive response. Any offer below the unions’ claims must lead quickly to co-ordinated ballots of members.
The section of the big public-services union Unison that makes decisions on health pay issues, the health Service Group, decided not to support the 3 July protests. They want to keep activity under a lid. But we won’t win just by negotiations in an office in London. We can only win by health workers campaigning and drawing on solidarity from the labour movement and the public. The newly elected left National Executive Committee of Unison must take action to set the priorities for campaigning on health and social care if they are to make a real difference.
This year an additional 258,000 individuals have become millionaires in the UK, where 23% of all household wealth is held by the richest 1%. The wealth is there to rebuild the NHS and win better pay for the workers who have been at the forefront this last year and a half.