by NHS Nurse Holly Johnston and Tom Griffiths, Keep Our NHS Public
Prime minister Boris Johnson should have resigned a long time ago, but whoever in his party replaces him will be no better for the NHS or for working people. He leaves behind a legacy of putting profit before lives, the privatisation of the NHS and creating a cost-of-living crisis that we’re all paying for.
Keep Our NHS Public welcomes the resignation of Boris Johnson while condemning his decision to hang on until a new leader is appointed. We say he must go now.
In his blithely defiant resignation speech, Johnson said of being pushed out by his own party, ‘them’s the breaks’ – but this won’t cut it for the grieving families whose relatives died unnecessarily during the pandemic, or those struggling to heat their homes in the coming winter, the NHS staff using food banks, or the patients languishing on waiting lists for urgently needed care.
Johnson’s self-serving, ideological muddle of a speech displayed zero self-awareness. He went on to say, ‘I’m immensely proud of what we’ve done, getting us all (sic) through the pandemic’ and later, ‘I’d like to thank the NHS, [which] helped extend my leadership.’
His statements are wildly at odds with the experience of ordinary people throughout the country and despite his attempts to sell his leadership as a success, we will remember his legacy as consistently getting the big calls wrong in relation to the NHS and the health of the population.
After hearing Johnson’s speech today, it’s clear that he struggles to comprehend the reality of his impact on Britain. At a time when poverty and the cost of living continues to rise, he spoke of all the grand achievements he has made while in power. But Johnson’s premiership will be remembered for its hypocrisy. He enjoyed making the rules but refused to follow them himself.Alia Butt, NHS Psychologist and psychotherapist (Keep Our NHS Public and NHS Staff Voices co-founder
We’ve been critical of the Conservative Government’s disastrous record on the NHS for years prior to Johnson’s tenure in number 10. But it’s nonetheless striking that under his stewardship we’ve seen the biggest crisis in staffing, waiting times and the passing into law of some the most dangerous NHS legislation in the Health and Care Act. Not to mention that, even as the 6th richest nation on the planet, for a significant period of time the UK had the worst death toll per capita in the world.
Surely, this kind of ‘getting us through the pandemic’, is nothing to be celebrated.
Contempt for NHS staff and patients
Throughout, Boris Johnson has shown only contempt for NHS staff, wages and conditions have consistently deteriorated during his leadership. NHS staff have been used as political fodder at a time when they are struggling to make ends meet. It’s not for nothing we’ve seen the formation of huge grassroots campaigns like ‘NHS Workers Say No!’ in response to the misery faced by NHS workers in dangerously understaffed workplaces, and insulting pay offers for NHS and other health and care workers.
The NHS is now facing its biggest crisis ever, with underfunding, 110,000 staff vacancies, bed cuts, ambulance services collapsing, record high waiting lists now over six million, and a massive maintenance backlog of around £9 million. With life expectancy stalled and poverty and inequality increasing, population health continues to suffer from the adverse effects of overall economic mismanagement.Dr John Puntis (co-chair of Keep Our NHS Public)
The real covid legacy
The People’s Covid Inquiry a year ago uncovered serious malpractice by the Prime Minister and his Government in their handling of the pandemic. Our report entitled Misconduct in Public Office was submitted to the police as a matter for criminal investigation. A major factor was a grave lack of preparedness and consequent fatal delay. It is of interest to note that part of the early mindset encompassed herd immunity and letting matters take their own course. Boris has shown equal disregard and disrespect for his own party in blaming his departure on the HERD instinct.Michael Mansfield QC, Chair of the People’s Covid Inquiry (Feb-Dec 2021)
Throughout the pandemic, the government has claimed time and again they’ve done a good job, when in reality we’ve seen countless avoidable deaths, private contracts for their friends and big party donors, inadequate supply, quality and guidance of PPE and a failed track and trace system. Theirs is a legacy of parties during lockdown while NHS staff went without seeing their families and dying patients were unable to have visitors.
In a pompous, misrepresentative and possibly libellous resignation letter addressed to the prime minister, Conservative Nadhim Zahawi MP, stated,
I am heartbroken, that [Johnson] hasn’t listened and that he is now undermining the incredible achievements of this Government at this late hour. No one will forget getting Brexit done, keeping a dangerous antisemite out of No 10, our handling of covid and our support for Ukraine in its hour of need.
After all the sleaze and the scandal, the porn, the alleged sexual assault, the ‘partygate’ lies, the nearly 200,000 deaths from covid, that anyone in Government can describe the Conservative’s legacy as ‘incredible’ shows yet again how out of touch they all are and how desperately we need change. Even Johnson’s critics are blind to the devastation their party has caused.
Zahawi is right about one thing however; we will not forget the Government’s handling of Covid. And our People’s Covid Inquiry has already taken our findings to the Metropolitan police over what our lawyers believe to be the ‘misconduct in public office’ demonstrated by Johnson and his cabinet throughout the crisis.
Waiting times at record high
Our NHS is on its knees. Millions are suffering whilst left on waiting lists. A result of 12 years of Tory government. Changing the man at the top won’t change that.Dr Sonia Adesara (Keep Our NHS Public)
As we’ve reported elsewhere, one of the key areas where Government’s NHS policy is failing is the appalling waits for ambulances in England. The Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) estimated that there were at least 4519 excess deaths in England in 2020-21 as a result of overcrowding and stays of 12 hours or longer in emergency departments. A report by Association of Ambulance Chief Executives showed that the monthly average number of patients with handover delayed >60 minutes in 2021 had almost doubled to 15,500 (the target for handover time is <15 minutes).
But will the next PM make things any better? We can certainly hope so, but if it’s a Conservative it’s difficult to be optimistic.
The Health and Care Act
Rather than seeking solutions to these problems, there has only been an obsessive preoccupation with structural reorganisation as exemplified by the problematic Health and Care Act, and an attempt to put the blame on overworked and underpaid staffDr John Puntis
The Health and Care Act deliberately breaks up the NHS and facilitates the spread of private interests. It does nothing to address the state of emergency the NHS is now in. It will drastically worsen the state of emergency care by imposing costly and disruptive reconfiguration. It has also now legalised the discharge of patients without a care plan, endangering their ongoing management and safety. The Act allows the Secretary of State to interfere early to determine local reconfigurations including hospital closures, thwarting public consultation, and weakening the say local authorities and councillors have on NHS plans.
It will likely now take years of hard campaigning to undo the damage done to the NHS by this wrecking ball legislation. Again, this is the legacy of Boris Johnson and the Conservative party. What the population needs, and what the NHS needs is not just a new PM but an entirely new Government with new policies designed to return the NHS to its founding principles.
While we welcome Boris Johnson going, we must remember the Conservative Government’s ideological attack on a publicly provided NHS remains and must be resisted.
We expect much more from our politicians in the coming months in terms of righting these many wrongs. The Johnson legacy will forever by epitomised by the Covid memorial wall and the blatant misconduct of the prime minister and his cabinet and officials while holding public office.Dr John Puntis
We cannot trust this government to rescue our NHS. That work will have to be undertaken by the many health campaigns across the country, many of whom have come together under the banner of the SOS NHS campaign. Instead of waiting on politicians to sort something out, we appeal to ordinary people everywhere to make your voices heard. It is our NHS and we have to use this moment to make sure our voices are heard.Mike Forster National Chair of Health Campaigns Together
We call on the politicians and parties in opposition to vigorously and vocally expose these lies, to stand up for public services, whether in health, care, education and transport, and to rebuild morale and pay justice for the public servants who work for us. Join with campaigners to help get rid of this government and to rebuild the NHS we need – funded to be stronger, safer, back 100% in public hands and available to everyone.Tony O’Sullivan (co-chair of Keep Our NHS Public)
NHS Campaigners and healthcare workers will be glad to see the back of Johnson and the others, but we need the opposition to call for an integrated, publicly owned health and care system with a restorative pay rise to ensure the future of the service and to stand shoulder to shoulder with working people trying to better their pay and conditions.
Holly Johnston is an NHS Nurse based in Sheffield and a founding member of NHS Workers Say No!
Tom Griffiths is the Head of Campaigns at Keep Our NHS Public