Health Campaigns Together and Keep Our NHS Public, the two broadest-based campaigns in defence of the NHS in England, welcome the coordinated campaign in defence of health and social care services across Europe by the European Public Service Unions (EPSU).
This culminates in European Action Day on Thursday October 29, demanding governments “invest in care now” – as called for by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and the global trade union federations.
The second wave of the pandemic has begun even before the winter season has even started. It once again puts health and care under massive strain. A rapid surge in cases is being witnessed in Britain and across Europe.
Again, unions are beginning to report a lack of the necessary Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and the lack of sufficient staff to withstand this new rise in infections. Many health and social care workers are still feeling exhausted and under stress after having dealt with the first wave.
In Britain, which went into the first Covid crisis under-funded after a decade of austerity, under-staffed, and under-bedded – with fewer beds per head than almost any comparable country in Europe – the second wave is showing the Westminster government to be as ill-prepared as before to cope with the crisis, and as reluctant to invest in public services. Indeed on many key issues our government is among the worst-performing in Europe.
Hundreds of millions have been squandered on fruitless contracts for PPE, placed with hopelessly unsuitable and unreliable companies – many of them connected with Conservative politicians. Lack of appropriate PPE has been a major factor in the death toll of patients, especially in care homes, and over 600 health and care workers.
Billions have been wasted in the UK on establishing a privatised system to test, track and trace the disease. But the system has failed ever more miserably to keep pace with the spread of the virus, while generating bumper profits for contractors and fat fees for management consultants, and leaving the public at risk. Billions more are being invested in leasing beds, staff and equipment from private hospitals while NHS hospitals are unable to make full use of the beds they have, and face financial penalties for failing to meet impossible targets.
That’s why we support the week of action that is taking place from 26-30 October. Nurses, doctors, healthcare assistants, social care and other frontline workers are mobilising across Europe, united around demands for higher wages, more staff, and quality care for all
We must ensure that the right lessons are learnt from this pandemic, and that those at the forefront receive what is necessary to continue the fight against Covid-19.
EPSU has committed to publish a manifesto explaining its proposals for future reforms of healthcare: in England Keep Our NHS Public and Health Campaigns Together have already jointly adopted a Rescue Plan for the NHS, which they are asking politicians of all parties to support.
The Plan sets out proposals to ensure that the lessons are learned from the failures in tackling Covid and our NHS is equipped, staffed and funded to continue to deliver comprehensive and universally-accessible services in the post-Covid situation.
Editor of Health Campaigns Together and Secretary of Keep Our NHS Public Dr John Lister said:
“It’s important to us as campaigners in Britain to know that right across Europe and around the world other health workers, social care staff and their trade unions are facing similar problems and working together. Like us they recognise the need to join together in solidarity around the need for governments to invest as much as necessary to make high quality health care and long term care available to all who need it.
“The virus is taking a terrible toll of the vulnerable: the poorest, older people, and black and minority ethnic health and public service staff. It is widening inequalities in health, while the economic impact of lockdown also falls most heavily on the lowest paid.
“But if we want the virus brought under control, we all have a common need for governments to guarantee the right to health and to health care as a key priority, and to recognise that publicly provided services – which have patient care and not private profit as their agenda – are the most effective and efficient way to make that right a reality.”
This press release is available for download as a Word document.
Information and graphics for the EPSU week of action are available at: https://epsu.org/article/european-health-action-week
Further details and comment: John Lister 07774 264112, email [email protected]
Health Campaigns Together: www.healthcampaignstogether.com
Keep Our NHS Public: www.keepournhspublic.com