From co-leaders Dr Richard Taylor and Dr Clive Peedell
As we all look forward to the festive season and the new year, things are not looking so good for the NHS or the country as a whole.
The Coalition has ruthlessly and foolishly stuck to its austerity agenda, which has only served to increase our debt burden, decimate public services, and widen the gap between rich and poor. The so called economic recovery is not only weak and faltering, but has also favoured the wealthiest in society over the poorest. Although unemployment is falling, the jobs created are poorly paid and often minimum wage, lack security and many are based on zero-hour contracts.
The cost of living crisis has hit the poorest hardest as hundreds of thousands are forced into using food banks, and the most vulnerable and needy are being forced out of their homes by the bedroom tax. The Coalition has created a new generation of working poor, who need to apply for benefits just to make ends meet. Hard working people can no longer afford to live in city centres, where house prices are booming. Yet wealthy private landlords are benefiting from this debt-fuelled housing boom because of increasing rents, which the taxpayer is subsidising through the need to pay out housing benefits.
Meanwhile, our public services are crumbling. The NHS has been chronically underfunded because healthcare inflation runs at 4% per annum and the budget has only increased by 0.7% per annum. In addition the unwanted £3bn top down reorganisation of the NHS has contributed to the crisis just as the leaked NHS Risk Register had predicted back in 2010. Yet this Government vetoed the publication of the Risk Register and failed to plan for the crisis. This is unforgivable as they now admit more GPs and A&E staff need to be trained to plug the gaps, yet this will take years to address. Moreover, the Government promised to cut down wasteful spending on management consultants, but actually doubled spending to £640million per year. They are also increasingly privatising the NHS by outsourcing with billions of pounds of NHS contracts being awarded to the private sector. This will fragment services and lead to poaching of NHS staff, putting increasing financial pressure on existing NHS hospitals which need to deliver the full range of services to their local communities. Massive cuts to local authority budgets have led to failure of social and care services, further ramping up the pressure on the healthcare system.
Do we really want to see more private companies running our NHS, more A&E units in crisis, more A&E and maternity units shut down, more patients stuck in ambulances, longer waits for GP appointments, and more teenagers needing mental health support kept in police cells?
The simple truth is that the NHS cannot withstand another term of the Tories and the LibDems.
This is true for all our public services, which will face even greater cuts under George Osborne’s ideological attack on the public sector. These cuts will lead to levels of inequality and poverty that will tear apart the social fabric of our country.
We must do all we can to stop the Coalition parties gaining another term in office.
Yet it is deeply worrying that the Labour Party are steering a course of Tory-lite policies. Despite the evidence that spending on infrastructure, education and health can boost the economy and reduce inequality, Ed Miliband and Ed Balls will also inflict damaging cuts to public services if Labour are voted in next May. We would therefore like to send a message loud and clear to the two Eds: 'Look at the evidence and reverse your damaging austerity policies.' Labour cannot call itself the party of the NHS is it continues with the austerity agenda, because the NHS cannot survive another £22bn of efficiency savings by 2021 and cannot survive the collapse of other public services like social care.
We wish that our Christmas message could be more positive, but we believe that people need to know the truth about the failing austerity agenda, which is destroying our NHS, public services and economy.
But to end on a more positive note, we are delighted to see our membership is steadily growing (now approaching 5000 members and over 30 local groups), and we are getting increasing media coverage as we enter the run-up to the 2015 General Election. We have announced so far a dozen high quality general election candidates who are working hard to spread the important messages about how we will defend and improve our NHS, together with our policies for a healthy society in its widest sense.
We hope voters will grasp the opportunity to stick up for our NHS and vote for a healthier future. We hope they will turn away from the politics of fear and self-interest that looks for scapegoats and divides society. We believe strongly that the way a society delivers its healthcare reflects the values of the people who live in it. We want a society based on fairness, equality and compassion. We think the British people want that too. Please get behind us and support us.
Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy 2015
Clive and Richard