TALKING POLITICS: Keep up the fight for YOUR NHS

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Mansfield’s Labour Leader Coun Martin Lee on why you need you need to speak up if you value our national health service...

Nothing affects the lives of the people of Mansfield and the whole country more than the performance of the NHS.

In their manifesto before the last General Election the Conservative Party promised there would be “no more top-down reorganisation” of the NHS. By passing the Health and Social Care Act 2012 with the help of their LibDem partners they in fact introduced the most radical top down reorganisation in the history of the NHS. The Act removed the government’s legal responsibility for our health. This means that the politicians retain control over the money but avoid responsibility for any failures that happen in the system owing to inadequate funding and excessive bureaucracy.

This government also promised to “ring fence” the NHS budget but what this really means is that funding has been frozen and has reduced in real terms due to inflation and rising costs. On top of this the government launched a £20 billion programme of cuts dressed up as “efficiency savings” which has resulted in a doubling of the number NHS foundation trusts in financial trouble.

Despite their weasel words it is clear the government’s agenda is to dismantle the NHS and replace it with provision by huge multi-national health companies whose purpose is to make profit from people’s suffering – a system rejected in 1948 when the NHS was established. It is already happening; in the past year two-thirds of NHS contracts have been awarded to private providers like Virgin Health. Other huge companies like Serco and G4S, who we must remember could not organise security for the London Olympics, are all bidding for contracts. Do we really want to put our health at the mercy of such profit driven organisations? Charges for visiting your GP will be just around the corner.

This piecemeal destruction of the NHS is already having the effect of rationing procedures vital for the independence of older people, such as hip, knee and cataract operations. Reorganisation and funding cuts are responsible for overstretching A & E departments and reducing ambulance response times leading to patient deaths.

Aneurin Bevan, the Labour Health Minister who created the NHS famously said: “The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it”.

On 16 August 2014 a group of mothers from County Durham will set off from Jarrow to march to the Houses of Parliament, following in the footsteps of those who marched the route in 1936 to protest against mass unemployment. This will be a courageous protest against the privatisation of the NHS and will attract thousands along the way who will have the chance to voice their opposition to the government putting the profits of its friends ahead of our health. The marchers will pass through Mansfield on 27 August 2014, travelling along Chesterfield Road for a rally in the Market Square at about 5.30pm. If you believe the NHS is worth fighting for then come along, show your support and make your voice heard. The NHS, used by us, owned by us, loved by us. Now the NHS can only be saved by us.