Keith Venables

NHS: Organizing to win

Keith Venables

TODAY’S UNDER-FUNDING CRISIS in the NHS was predictable and avoidable. As Professor Stephen Hawking said: “The crisis in the health service has been created by politicians who want to privatise it - when public opinion, and the evidence, point in the opposite direction.”

George Osborne’s goal was to reverse New Labour’s decade of large NHS spending increases from 2000, which - despite wasting billions on privatisation - increased staff numbers and slashed waiting times to a maximum of 18 weeks.

Since 2010, NHS funding has been effectively frozen. There is a £22 billion deficit, 8,000 front line hospital beds have closed, waiting lists now exceed four million, waiting times are increasingly missing targets and 100,000 posts are vacant.

Ambulances race through towns only to queue to hand over patients, as hospitals, running close to 100% full, struggle to free up beds. Additionally, cuts in local government spending since 2010 have slashed funding for social care, cutting off support for frail older people living at home and delaying discharge of people needing long term care. Primary care faces dire problems recruiting and retaining district nurses and GPs - with no hope of reaching the extra 5,000 promised by Jeremy Hunt.

Theresa May’s fragile government has been forced to pause the privatising device of Accountable Care Organisations. This is down to our movement, a judicial review led by Stephen Hawking and to the Labour opposition. A mighty movement is emerging - fragmented, but growing.

There are over 300 campaign groups across the country. Health Campaigns Together’s two big London demos in 2017 and 2018 attracted well over 300,000 people, many of them health workers.

The impact on the Labour Party has been enormous: its Brighton conference unanimously passed composite 8 which outlined what to fight for now, and what a Labour government should do. Since conference, Jon Ashworth, shadow health secretary, has met and learned from campaigners and put forward robust ideas.

We believe CLPs should ensure that health campaigning is always on the agenda. Support for the NHS is a key reason why people vote Labour.

Our party needs to face outwards and challenge decisions made by local councils, commissioning groups, and MPs of all stripes who undermine our NHS.

  • Health Campaigns Together has many affiliates from CLPs, health unions, including Unison and Unite nationally and locally, other unions like the FBU and NEU, and national and local campaigns. Working with the TUC and the People’s Assembly, we are calling a national protest to mark the 70th Anniversary of the launch of the NHS on Saturday 30th June. Join us and affiliate to Health Campaigns Together, through our website:

» Thanks to John Lister, editor of Health Campaigns Together, for assistance with this article.

Amber Valley CLP, National Secretary of Health Campaigns Together (personal capacity)