From junior doctors to teachers, no-one is safe from the Tories’ ideological assault on the public sector, warns RABBIL SIKDAR
TEACHING and medicine are often considered two of the highest professions in terms of integrity, respect and social contribution. Every job is important, otherwise it wouldn’t need someone doing it, but educating children and nursing people back to health — can there be anything more honourable than that?
So what a surprise then that the Conservatives, the supposed defenders of aspiration and those interested in wealth creation, have destroyed the morale of our teachers and now look set to drive the doctors out of this country.
Jeremy Hunt is the Health Secretary who does not care much for the institution we should be proudest and most patriotic about. His contracts are about removing some of the basic safeguards that exist and running the doctors into the ground. Unsociable hours are seeing a pay cut, even though MPs are receiving a massive salary increase, and there is continuous pressure on the doctors to maintain an NHS that is teetering on the brink of collapse.
Departments are desperately short of funds, facing huge cuts in staffing numbers due to the funding squeeze, and amid this comes the war with the junior doctors.
Hunt’s refusal to negotiate with reason has been laid bare. Faced with criticism, his tactic has been to retreat and try to divide people from the doctors, between the “moderates” and the “militants.” When negotiations with the BMA have taken place, rational suggestions put forward by the doctors and approved by the NHS management have been rejected by Hunt.
There is a clear ideological purpose here for the Tories: to oversee the destruction of the one great public institution that even the great neoliberal Margaret Thatcher steered clear of attacking. At the moment, the terrible contracts being imposed on the doctors will drive them out of the country. The terrible underfunding of the NHS and creeping privatisation will increasingly jeopardise the principle of treatment being free at the point of use.
Departments are collapsing and doctors are leaving — these are presented as the perfect reason to justify privatisation of the NHS. For the Tories, this is “proof” that state-run institutions are costly and ineffective compared to the private sector.
Currently, the only barrier to privatisation is public outrage. The junior doctors’ strikes have been met with sympathy. Strikes are a last resort, a desperate, final swing of the sword when no other option remains. Hunt has pushed the doctors and the NHS increasingly into a corner and left them with no alternative.
Junior doctors are being run into the ground. They are being told, in a nutshell, to work longer hours for less pay.
Is this what we want? Do the British people want their hospitals at risk, the NHS at risk, where doctors are too tired and demoralised to do their job? For all that the Tories describe their opposition as a security threat, the entire security of the public healthcare that we cherish so deeply is at risk.
The manner in which the Tories have treated public-sector workers, from doctors to Tube drivers to teachers, has been awful. They have been pushed into striking by the Tories’ ideological disregard for these crucial services.
Using the NHS as a political weapon might seem opportunistic, but it’s now vital that Jeremy Corbyn and Labour do not let this go. The Tories have been destroying the health service for a long time. They are demoralising and exhausting our doctors, making the best go abroad. How exactly is that staying true to values of aspiration, hard work and an ideal of an internationally competitive Britain?
The NHS is an odd issue for Labour. Although the health service was Labour’s creation, is forever entwined with its history and has been championed continuously by the party, it was Labour which introduced the costly privatisation reforms.
But using the NHS, especially one that provides an appealing sense of security and protection to the older generations, is crucial.
The junior doctors have battled the Tories and shown them up as a government that seeks to bully the public into submission. Public anger over the Tories is there, as it is on many issues. It’s up to Labour now to expose their lies over the very mantras they have hummed repeatedly to the public, then eschewed in search of profits.
And that is what they seek to do with the NHS. Their ideological goal is to see it in private hands. Do not be fooled by David Cameron’s supposed love of the NHS for what it did for him. He has put the health service in the hands of a man who co-authored a book calling for its privatisation. The tightening budgets and the harsher measures imposed on the junior doctors are about weakening public healthcare’s ability to perform and deliver an efficient service.