Picture: Lorne Campbell / Guzelian Nursing staff at Bradford Royal Infirmary, Bradford, West Yorkshire. PICTURE TAKEN ON TUESDAY 16 JULY 2019

The NHS has been trending for days on Twitter, with huge numbers of those working in the profession, consultants, doctors in A&E, nurses and paramedics expressing their despair at the state of the service they had once been so proud to work in.

One doctor who said he/she had 9 years plus experience of working in the emergency department said, “This morning was the first time EVER that I cried in my car after a shift…. Whereas 5 years ago we had 50 patients in the department on handover at night, we now have 180. It used to be around 20 patients to see with a 1-2 hour wait for a clinician.  It is now 60-70 with a 10 hour wait.”

The right-wing media see this crisis as an opportunity to push their privatisation agenda. In an article in the Daily Mail headlined “Oh for a politician brave enough to say the NHS is broken – and no amount of money will put it right”, Stephen Glover blames inadequate staff, not staffing, for the current crisis. And of course, strikers get the blame for going on strike in the midst of a crisis. Never mind that their actions are exposing the extent of the crisis, which is the direct of result of government policy. But Glover’s enthusiasm for health professional bashing has the support he thinks of “any fair-minded person” (for which read non-thinking, right winger) who he thinks “must concede that large parts of the NHS are not offering a good service”. This leads to his solution, a Royal Commission which would recommend the NHS be funded “based on personal and State insurance”, no more community provision, simply health provision for those who can afford it.

There was a time when such views would have been expressed within the Conservative Party and roundly denounced by Labour. Not any longer. Labour is now caught in the glare of the possibility of an election victory, and Wes Streeting, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, can proudly announce, “I’d use private hospitals to bolster the NHS.” Such language would have been inconceivable a few short years ago.

Let us hope that his conversion to private health care has nothing to do with the £15,000 donation he received from John Armitage, who, as well as being a a major Conservative party donor (donating a total of £3.1 million), is a major private health investor. Armitage’s Egerton Capital currently holds $833 million of shares in UnitedHealth – a US health firm widely seen as a threat to publicly owned healthcare in the UK.

We are plummeting headlong into a fully privatised health care system in the UK, dominated by American health multinationals. The criteria for treatment will no longer be need but your ability to pay (or to have insurance that will pay). The NHS is certainly not safe in either Labour or Conservative hands. If we want to defend the NHS, we have to support striking health workers, not just to get more pay, as important as that is, but to be given the resources necessary to do their job. For all our sakes.

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