Friday 3rd July 2020

The following article is based upon our campaign statement:

July 5th, 2020 is the 72nd anniversary of the founding of the NHS. While everyone is very aware of the outstanding role played by health and care workers, as they saved lives during the COVID-19 pandemic, this is also a time to reflect on the fight to save hospital and community services in South Tyneside over the last 4 years, and for many decades before that!

To mark the occasion, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we invited people to demonstrate their united appreciation for the NHS, and if they wished, to share their thoughts on what Keep The Heartbeat Going means to them...

Thank you to everyone who got involved, because it is your resolve to speak out and be counted, through campaigns like SSTHC, together with trade union activists and those in wider circles, that keeps up the pressure on the authorities in this long fight for our NHS. Our local campaign work is a reflection of what is happening in every part of the country. Although campaigners haven't always been able to save all vital services in every area, our collective resistance has delayed the implementation of further closures, resulting for example, in hundreds more hospital beds being available in South Tyneside during the COVID-19 pandemic than would otherwise have been the case if cuts and closures had proceeded unchallenged.

Privatisation continues as the NHS turns 72, and as the consequences become harder to hide (starkly exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic), government lies about their intentions for our NHS seem to be evermore at odds with reality...

As the NHS turns 72, a wide-ranging and far-reaching trade bill that does not exclude the NHS and other public services is being rushed through parliament by the government. The bill (known simply as Trade Bill 2019-21) is central to free trade negotiations with the USA. In its present form, the bill will enshrine the right of US corporations to access the NHS and other public service markets in the UK in a way that will increase the trend towards greater privatisation. Like most so-called free trade bills, it sets up a remedy authority — Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) — enabling US corporations to sue (in secret international courts that supersede the power of our courts) future UK governments if they try to introduce new regulation: such as to protect public services, the environment or the welfare of citizens; making it harder to roll-back privatisation.

This trade bill will affect vitally important aspects of life for most people, from health care to food standards. As author George Monbiot writes:

The leaked dossier of trade documents released by the Labour Party last year revealed that the US is seeking “full market access” to the NHS. ...The neoliberal extremists who populate the front benches have long sought to rip down our public protections, rip down our public services, rip down everything that stands in the way of the most vicious form of capitalism.
George Monbiot, June 2020

It is essential that we stop the bill from becoming law, certainly in its present form. There is a huge resistance including social media campaigns, and millions of people signing petitions to Keep our NHS out of US Trade deals, to demand an amendment to protect our NHS from trade deals, and to protect our food standards.

We should decide — as a people — what industries and public services we have and what we trade abroad, not an international network of companies (some of whom may be British based) that will use the trade bill to privatise our NHS, public services and other vital industries. Some people understandably voted for Brexit in order to Take Back Control, and part of taking back control is to limit the power of the corporations to impose on society trade agreements that are against the rights and interests of most people, both at home and abroad. Otherwise we submit to the profit maximising logic of neoliberal economics as it supersedes governments and democracy to dictate our socio-economic conditions.

After his close encounter with COVID-19, Boris Johnson said that Our NHS is the beating heart of this country. It is the best of this country. It is unconquerable. It is powered by love. Fine words, but it is up to us — the people — to keep the heartbeat going! The current direction is driven not by love but greed. NHS privatisation will continue until we build a movement large enough to rescue our social, political, economic and environmental commons from corporate plunder. We must keep speaking out in our name. We must fight to get an outcome that favours the people, where we make the decisions, ensuring health care is a right for all that is guaranteed in South Tyneside and everywhere else.

It is our hospital, our NHS, and we should decide!


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