Cllr Karen Constantine: Marking the 75th birthday of our NHS

Karen Constantine

Today we celebrate something important, something that we all share in common. It’s the 75th birthday of our NHS. Happy birthday! And immense thanks to all those staff working in our wonderful institution. Many staff often work a great deal of unpaid over time and go above and beyond their job descriptions. I hear examples of wonderful staff all the time.

One way or another we have have been the direct beneficiaries of this wonderful idea – free healthcare. It’s hard for any of us to wake up thinking that somehow we need to find the cash to see a doctor or to pay for vital, life saving treatment.

But, we know our NHS is being run down. For instance just 13 years ago our NHS system was ranked as one of the very best in the world. How times have change! We know for certain that the Tories are failing, and as a result the NHS is in steep decline. Since launching the new NHS plan just five months ago waiting list for routine hospital treatment have risen from 7.2M to 7.4M.

Urgent action is required to stop the waiting list growing exponentially. GP numbers are falling dramatically.

  1. The new recently announced NHS workforce plan is long overdue. It’s quite unbelievable to think that there has been no workforce plan and on one has taken responsibility for workforce over the past 20 years. Labour have long been calling for exactly this  – as we’ve watched the NHS being hollowed out and run down.
  2. It’s sad, frightening and reversible, and we are out of step with similar countries, our life expectancy is decreasing. If we are going to change this we must start to regard the funding of our NHS as an investment. (About 10,000 people a year die early who would be saved by French or Swedish levels of treatment, the figures suggest. The Times.) 13 years ago we had one of the best healthcare systems in the world, but the slow striping out to support an ideological drive to privatisation has damaged it. Healthcare is expensive but any alternative to the NHS is likely to be just as costly, if not more so. So let’s invest in it and fix what we’ve got, the institution that we’ve already built. For goodness sake don’t fall for the rhetoric of privatisation – you only have to look at what’s happening to the water industries to see what a disaster that is!
  3. Any organisation is only as good as the people who work for it. And that means fostering positive industrial relations. I know that sounds old-fashioned. But workers needs to be heard and need to be satisfied that their concerns are being taken fully into consideration, and that they are being paid properly. But this Government have stopped talking to NHS unions and NHS organisations. They need to get around the ‘negotiating table’ to build knowledge and relationships with the health unions and royal colleges. They urgently need to build trust with these bodies and to find decent pay settlements. Retention of existing staff is now critical. Our NHS staff are leaving in alarming numbers. Those people that looked after so many of us through the difficult Covid emergency. Factor in the age profile of the workforce, and the global shortage of doctors and other clinicians. We simply have to nail retention.
  4. It’s clear that we need to recruit and train many thousands of health and social care workers. Decent wages and working conditions are vital. Somehow we need hundreds and thousands of new workers to start training and entering our NHS. It’s got to become an employer of choice and offer attractive long-term careers. We need to grow our own talent and harness enthusiasm wherever we find it.

So on the 75th anniversary we face a stark choice. One that we must get right or face an increasingly difficult future. A future where health care really is little more than a lottery. Britain spends lower than average on healthcare as a proportion of GDP, and its per capita spend is well below the EU as a whole. The last labour government made the NHS a priority we invested, 6.7% into the NHS on average in real terms compared to a paltry and insufficient 1.1%. The funding crisis must be addressed.

Currently we have too few staff, dilapidated buildings, lack of investment in equipment, a huge social care gap, lack of IT, appalling industrial relations, lack of preventive healthcare, a crisis in mental health, the list goes on. So happy 75th birthday! And huge thanks to our staff, the next steps is to ensure its survival.


    • Guess you are thinking of Maggie Thatcher.

      The Tories have wrecked the NHS, they want everyone to go private, guess why? They have donors that run private clinics!

  1. Who is the “thoroughly horrible woman” that “Sparky” is referring to? There is no mention of any named individual in Ms Constantine’s article.

    • The Labour Party want more privatisation of the NHS if they get into power. Privatisation has worked really well for water industry shareholders so of course they want it for the NHS. The war criminal Tony Blair has been banging the privatisation of the NHS drum again this week via his Think Tank the Tony Blair Institution, and Starmer and Streeting et al have been taking huge sums of money from private healthcare companies.

        • RL – grow up please or get out more. There are no money trees that I am aware of to fund completely NHS. Perhaps French model will be better regarding funding.

  2. When will it ever be mentioned that the nhs could be helped if the nation embraced a culture of personal responsibility for its health and fitness, 75 years ago people had health problems associated with lack of available calories and too much hard work, it was unlikely to have ever been envisaged that the majority of its patients would be overweight and unfit to the degree the nhs sees today.

    • Well LC I was born before there was an NHS, in war time, and my mum carried me through blitzed out London to Great Ormand Street Children’s hospital, because I was “failing to thrive”. They discovered I had a calcium deficiency, probably due to war time rationing. The Red Cross charged my mum seven shillings & sixpence for this, which she never paid because she didn’t have the money! When I learned of this some 50 years later, I paid it or the equivalent, so my mum could die in peace! The NHS was the most beautiful concept ever, don’t let the Tory’s break it up, which they will do, given half a chance, and people could end up like my mum depending on charity!

      • My comment had nothing to do with breaking the nhs up and i’m sure that just about everyone likes the idea of the nhs ( even if they don’t appreciate how fortunate they are to have it) , my question was purely in relation to the unnecessary demands placed upon it by those who eat themselves to poor health and or fail to maintain a basic level of fitness , when they are capable of avoiding the former and embracing the latter. Thanet apparently has the highest proportion of births to obese mothers in the country, which places the mother and child at additional risk , makes their care much more difficult, raises concerns for the care of the child etc etc.
        The demands such behaviours and others make of the nhs at a time of increased demand is surely something that needs to addressed.

        • I am physically repulsed by obese, and overweight people Lc, and they are costing the NHS (us!) £ billions for their self inflicted injuries! Heart failure, diabetes, amputations, gastric bands, avoidable cancers, make your own list! Perhaps instead of being treated on the NHS they should be put on war time rationing, in fact post war rationing was harsher! They know they are obese, or overweight, so why are they not doing something about it? Or is it a cry for help, like Look At Me, I’m eating myself to death, duurh!

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