Our NHS is not for sale – unions must fight back

NEC members march with the NHS demo, Saturday 4th March 2017

DWP Group Executive Committee members Martin Cavanagh and Angela Grant, and PCS activist Nicola Wild march with the PCS contingent on Saturday’s NHS march.

Written report from PCS Left Unity member Angela Grant
Vote for Angela for NEC and DWP Assistant Secretary

Arriving at the “Save our NHS” demo, I was first in awe, and absolute elation, at our ability to mobilise such numbers whilst workers are still suffering from enforced pay restraint and benefit cuts, not to mention being smothered by a huge blanket of lethargy.  The second thing to catch my notice was the how loudly people were chanting, “our NHS is not for sale”.

Fact is, over 50% of our NHS clinical services have already been sold off to private- for profit – investors.  Some of our GP surgeries are partly privatised; a GP referral might now see us being treated in a clinic that, although still badged NHS, is run by profiteers – and that means that all moneys that should be regenerated by our NHS, reinvested into our services, is being syphoned off into the pockets, and the overburdened bank accounts, of the CEO’s of private companies.

How many of the general public know that?  Not nearly enough!  Nothing on the “News”.

But people “know” from mainstream media that “immigrants are bleeding us dry”. Nothing of immigrants being used to build our health service, the 1948 Government asking Caribbean workers to come bolster our system, helping create the great institution we have today. Nothing of the 73,000 women that presently work in our health service, who were trained in their home countries at no cost to us, who have brought their skills here to save lives in our hospitals.  None of that.

We must change the rhetoric!

To blame immigration is to let this and previous governments off the hook for the heinous decimation of our services, for reducing NHS funding to a point where the system is collapsing and the smoke and mirrors spin allows people to believe private companies are the only way out – pitting our NHS against the private sector in a bid for contracts it can ill afford due to the aforementioned cuts to funding.

Our union’s Left Unity-led NEC continues to take the fight for jobs and services to Government’s door, we have called on other public sector leaderships to stand in solidarity, and the TUC to coordinate action to help us win this war. But, rather than move to action, their lack of response has created a vacuum, a black hole which continues to swallow not just our access to free healthcare, but all of our hard won protections such as social security and even our children’s education, as class sizes rise and money available for school books falls sharply. This year we need to re-elect the fighting leadership of our union, and we need other unions to do the same and join the struggle.

So, why do we march? Because, out there with other unions and campaigning groups, PCS can inform, educate and raise public awareness of the issues at hand. And yesterday we did just that.

We took our banners and our flags to London, gave a show of strength with our brothers and sisters across the movement, and we brought to life the words of Nye Bevan:

“The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it.”

We’re here, and the fight goes on!

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