Aneurin Bevan, one of Wales’ greatest political figures, has had a long legacy. The ‘father of the National Health Service’ was a principled and determined man, whose political roots were forged in the pits and mining valleys. Our NHS is a national treasure, but year on year, it is being watered down and privatised by successive governments. Bevan’s dream of free, comprehensive, humane and effective healthcare paid for by the people for the people is being tarnished, it’s being privatised by the backdoor and shamefully underfunded.
Behind closed doors, politicians have been dicing up the NHS and selling it to private companies to the detriment of patients. Competition in healthcare doesn’t lead to a better service, it leads to corner cutting and worsened care. We need the NHS to be accountable; a nationalised health service is accountable, a private health service run by the elite is accountable to no one and listens only to profit. Have you heard of Circle Healthcare, Virgin Care and Care UK to name a few? Profit-driven companies, hidden from public view, should not be treating our most vulnerable in society.
In Wales, the NHS is entirely devolved to the National Assembly. Despite the Welsh Government’s budget being cut by billions in real term money since the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats took power in 2010, NHS spending in Wales has increased. Considering Brexit, will Carwyn Jones keep to this and properly fund the NHS? Would giving the National Assembly tax raising powers allow for the NHS to be funded properly?
Wales is not free from private company interference within the NHS. Private Finance Initiative (PFI) Hospitals are indebting the Welsh NHS. This is where private companies have built NHS hospitals and leased them back to the NHS, placing our NHS in extreme debt. Creeping Privatisation is a threat in Wales. Plaid Cymru’s Rhun ap Iorwerth, the Shadow Health Minister for Wales, says exclusively that “since the Plaid Cymru-Labour coalition government ended, the NHS has increasingly used private providers.”
However, in other parts of the UK, the situation is far more dire. In England, private companies have won over 40% of most recent contracts. Privatisation is on the rise. This is no surprise knowing that Jeremy Hunt is the Secretary of State for Health. Who co-authored a book calling for the “denationalisation” of the NHS, to be replaced with a private insurance scheme as seen in the US. UKIP’s new leader, Paul Nuttall, also believes in an insurance based health service. This would be a disaster for working people, many wouldn’t be able to afford astronomical health insurance costs. UKIP, the “new party of the working class”, and the Conservatives are ready to rip apart the NHS – we must defend it.
The Conservative government has failed regarding the NHS, and an anti-austerity Westminster is nowhere to be seen. The Assembly is Wales’ best hope for a well-funded NHS, that values patients, not profit.
To “save our NHS”, Bevan would argue that the National Health Service needs to be properly funded and should never be privatised, to the detriment of patients. Instead of asking already stretched-thin Junior Doctors to bear the cost, Bevan would ensure more doctors and nurses are employed within the NHS. Bevan would pay for this by closing tax-loopholes and increasing taxes on the richest in society. While Bevan was Health Minister, the top rate of income tax increased up to 98%, today it is 45%.
Keeping the Welsh NHS in the hands of the Welsh people is an absolute priority. Forget the Tory spin, the Welsh NHS is performing better than across the border and it’s patients are more satisfied with the situation in Wales. The National Survey for Wales found that nine out of ten people are happy with their NHS care in Wales. We should be proud of what we’ve achieved in the Welsh NHS. Yet, the National Assembly is fighting with one hand tied behind it’s back. Limited powers mean that Wales can never be adaptable or free enough to properly fund the NHS. Rhun ap Iorwerth also says “the vision of Aneurin Bevan remains half finished”, this is as “Social Care remains the responsibility of local authorities, it is means tested and people can face substantial care bills as a result.”
A free, comprehensive and universally accessible health service that values people not profit is in the interest of everyone. With an ageing population, it is needed more than ever before.
Let’s do Aneurin Bevan justice, let’s do the NHS justice.
Let’s end NHS privatisation and properly fund this institution.