As junior doctors conclude their 72 hour strike today, new figures reveal that three quarters of adults waiting for a mental health appointment are waiting more than four weeks for an appointment, the NHS England national standard.
Whilst the right-wing press was quick to blame the junior doctors’ strike for lengthening the waiting list times, the figures have hit an all-time high of 7.21 million people waiting for surgery. More than 400,000 people have been waiting over a year for routine operations. The figures are unprecedented and have nothing whatsoever to do with strikes.
However the strikes are a reflection of an NHS which is being carved up ready for privatisation. Money is being spent on the NHS, but much of it is finding its way into the hands of consultants brought in to tell people who work for the NHS how to do better. As if that is not insulting enough, politicians use the frustration of staff as a stick to beat them with.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has promised to reduce waiting lists. The NHS Confederation, which represents hospitals, has called for additional funding and said that, unless the current round of strikes is brought to an end, then it is inevitable that waiting lists will grow. Despite this Sunak has refused to meet with health union leaders, preferring to jet off to America to stoke tensions between the USA and China.
The mess that is the NHS has reduced what was once the ‘jewel in the crown’ of the British welfare system to a pawn shop cheap piece of jewellery. An investigation by the Health Foundation found that pre-pandemic the UK spent a daily average 18% below the EU14. If the UK had spent the same as our European partners, it would have meant an additional £40 billion a year since 2010.
Meanwhile those on long waiting lists, often waiting up to a year for an appointment, are being enticed by doctors employed by the NHS offering private appointments at up to £250. We do not condemn patients, many of whom are living with significant levels of pain, but it should not be the case that those with money can so easily move themselves up the appointments list usually seeing the NHS doctor they would eventually see if they had waited for an appointment.
Neither the Tories nor Labour have plans for the NHS which do not include the expansion of private healthcare. Critical Mass believes that healthcare should be a right for everybody, should be free at the point of use and should be allocated on the basis of need not the ability to pay. We stand behind the doctors, nurses, ambulance workers and other health workers in trying to address the pay and conditions issues that are driving the NHS into oblivion.
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