Phelim Mac Cafferty: We must fight to protect our health service

Councillor MacCafferty
Councillor MacCafferty

Founded on the principle of universal healthcare and free at the point of delivery, the NHS celebrates its 70th birthday on July 5.

However, 70 years on and its founding principles are in peril. Theresa May’s ‘birthday present’ comes from a Brexit dividend that doesn’t exist. Under the guise of ‘transforming’ the NHS, health secretary Jeremy Hunt is now imposing huge cuts. Like the New Labour Government before them, the Tories are opening the door for private companies to seize valuable contracts and run them at a lower cost. According to the British Medical Journal, a third of NHS contracts awarded since Hunt’s 2013 Health Act have gone to the private sector. Yet as patients of the failed Coperforma patient transport service will know, a cheaper service isn’t always a better one.

Worse still, dedicated NHS staff are let down by this cuts agenda. Health chiefs at the Royal Sussex County Hospital said staff shortages and high demand led to “the toughest winter” on record. The city now has one GP to every 2,500 patients. 33,000 nurses left the NHS last year, combined with a 96 per cent drop in applications from the EU as Brexit looms.

NHS founder and Labour MP Aneurin Bevan is said to have stated the NHS would survive only if people fought for it. Sadly, the local Labour Council has failed to live up to this challenge. Ignoring warnings about privatisation through the back door, Labour rubber-stamped local ‘Sustainability and Transformation Plans,’ despite the £864m “savings” targets embedded within them. Labour took £1m out of local public health budgets, dismissing warnings from local GPs that cuts would make patient health and safety ‘much worse.’ This month cuts have led to the closure of Brighton Station Walk-in Centre.

Greens are fighting to protect our health service. We continue to challenge the Labour Council’s co-operation with American–style private healthcare. We are demanding long-term funding for social care and calling on the Government to reinstate nurse bursaries. Greens will join thousands marching in support of a free NHS on Saturday. The principle of cradle to grave healthcare deserves nothing less.

Cllr Phelim Mac Cafferty, Convener of the Brighton and Hove Green Group