Workers of the National Health Service are in the forefront of the ongoing struggle of the working class and people of Britain against privatisation of health services.
On November 22, when the British government tabled the Health and Care Bill in parliament for discussion and voting, NHS workers, trade unions and health campaign organisations expressed their opposition to the bill in several ways.
A petition signed by over three lakh people calling on the government to withdraw the bill, was presented. This was followed by a rally in the evening, in which many activists from the movement to safeguard the future of NHS spoke.
Speakers at the rally called for an end to privatisation, increased budget allocation for the NHS and better pay and working conditions for NHS workers.
Prior to the protest action, the General Secretary of Unite the Union pointed out that workers in the NHS are facing unacceptable conditions of work. The staff strength has been greatly reduced, the workload greatly increased. The government was pushing for wage cuts. The Health and Care bill was being used to further liquidate NHS and open the door for privatisation. The bill will lay the path for deterioration in standard of health care for the people and further attacks on the salaries and working conditions of NHS staff. She called for determined opposition to the ongoing attacks.
An opinion poll conducted amongst people found that more than 70% of the people were concerned that the Bill would result in NHS contracts being handed to private companies. It found that people want that the NHS be provided proper funding, and that it remains a fully public service available to all people free of charge. On the other hand, the government was deliberately liquidating the NHS and opening it up further to corporate interests.
The protest in London against the Health and Care Bill shows that the resistance of the people of Britain to the attacks on public health services is building up. People are increasingly coming to the realisation that the government is trying to orient the NHS in a capital centred direction, to benefit corporates. There is growing recognition that the NHS needs a new direction which is human-centered, where public authorities involve health staff and the people in the communities they serve, to speak directly about their needs and participate in making decisions.