Mayday! Health and welfare systems are under attack!

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2 November 2016

The true face of May's government is starting to emerge out of the Brexit shambles. And it looks just as nasty its predecessor's.

On the one hand, May appears willing to splash out huge state subsidies on big companies like Nissan, who are seeking compensation for the losses they will incur due to Brexit.

On the other hand, she has shown over the past weeks, what her pledge to make a clean break from Osborne's austerity was really worth - absolutely nothing! Instead, she turns out to have yet more policies against the working class in store. Whether it is for the NHS, welfare benefits, care for children and the elderly, it's more of the same - cuts, cuts and cuts again!

MORE SICK LIES ABOUT THE NHS

The situation of the NHS is becoming so shocking that a cross-party group of MPs has taken up May on her claim that it is to be awarded "£10bn extra by 2021" - and should, therefore, manage.

Of course, as these MPs argue, there is a cynical sleight of hand behind this claim. First, because this "extra cash" is to be spread out over 5 years, regardless of the immediate needs. And second, because not only does the real extra cash come to only £6bn, but £3.5bn of this will be taken from cuts in health programmes and medical training! In short, May's £10bn claim is just another lie - just like the lie of the £350m/week promised to the NHS by the Leave campaign!

But bickering over May's £10bn is merely tinkering with the edges of the real problem: even if this figure was true, it would imply an annual increase of less than 2% in the £116 billion NHS budget - which is a derisory amount compared to the requirements of a health system which is increasingly unable to cater for the needs of a growing population.

The extent of the problem was highlighted earlier this year by the junior doctors' strikes, which exposed the drastic under-staffing of the system. More recent official figures show that the number of patients waiting for more than 4 hours in hospital A&Es has doubled to 2 million over the past year.

On the financial side, the NHS funding deficit has increased 20-fold over the past 2 years, reaching £2.45bn. Almost all hospital trusts ran short last year and will be in deficit again, in 2016.

In fact, a closer look at the figures shows that NHS expenditure per head will remain unchanged this year, while falling in the following year! And judging from the plans made by the NHS bodies which oversee English hospitals, the collapse of the NHS is bound to get even worse: over the next 18 months, more than half of these bodies plan to cut acute beds, one in 3 plans to shut or downgrade an A&E unit and one in 5 to close maternity units!

Another offensive against us

Next Monday, Osborne's "extended benefit cap" will begin to come into force, despite the change in government. Over the next two months, it will be fully rolled out, cutting benefits (including housing benefit) for over 110,000 jobless households, due to the lowering of the total amount payable to £442/wk in London and £385/wk outside.

Coming next, will be a £3.4bn cut to universal benefit, which former chancellor Osborne was forced to withdraw last year. It is estimated that it will leave 3m working households over £1,000 a year worse off by 2022. Ironically, Iain Duncan Smith, who masterminded all these benefit cuts under Cameron, is now belatedly leading the charge against this latest attack on low-paid workers!

But there's more to come. Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green has announced yet another plan to "help the sick and disabled into work". How many times have we heard that one? But this time, Green, with the support of Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, has the nerve to claim that his only concern is claimants' well being, because, according to him, "work is good for their health"! Whatever next?

Well, in fact, there is a "next": a review of sick pay and so-called "fit notes", which is clearly aimed at forcing us back into work before we have fully recovered from an illness!

So, yes, this is clearly a continuation of Cameron's attacks. After the short respite due to the referendum saga and the change in government, the Tories are back on the offensive against the working class. And predictably so, now that they are under pressure from their capitalist masters to use public money to cushion the impact of Brexit for them. This means that they'll need every pound they can squeeze out of social expenditure, in order to meet the demands of the City. This also means that we, workers, have to get ready to use our collective strength to stop them!