Updated: Mar 26
Jacqui Berry, Kent and Medway Socialist Alternative
Since 2011, almost one nurse per week has committed suicide.
We have been acting as the human buffer zone between the sick and the vulnerable and the government’s savage austerity policies. This has taken its toll on thousands of us. Over the last decade, the numbers of overworked nurses leaving the National Health Service has tripled. We are now 40,000 nurses and 100,000 total staff short in NHS England.
For those of us struggling to hold the National Health Service together on little more than goodwill, Boris Johnson’s manifesto pledge of 50,000 extra nurses is an insult. It is also a lie.
These “promised” extra nurses won’t actually appear until 2025, at the earliest, if ever. They will include 18,500 people who are already nurses, that the Government hopes can be persuaded not to leave. Under Tory plans, this is highly unlikely to succeed, with proposals to charge overseas nurses £400 a year plus visas. This will be in addition to the annual fees all nurses must pay to practice and will not convince a single nurse, overseas or UK trained, to stay in the NHS.
Having scrapped the NHS bursary, the Tories now appear to be re-instating it. However this is more fake news. The manifesto pledges a maintenance grant for student nurses only, leaving trainee midwives, physiotherapists, and other healthcare professionals totally reliant on student loans. These divide and rule tactics will mean all graduate under the heavy burden of debt, as all NHS students, including nurses will still have to pay to train.
Last General Election, Theresa May arrogantly overlooked the high regard which working class and middle class people have for our NHS. This time, Johnson thinks he can use a pseudo-pledge for “50,000 extra nurses” to divert attention from the real issues: a lack of beds, staff and funds; private vultures leaching resources out of public hands; a mental health crisis, exacerbated by savage austerity impacting the lives of millions; a social care system run for profit.
Determined not to repeat May’s mistake, when she announced the “Dementia Tax” in 2017, Johnson is virtually silent social care. Beyond lies about nurses and rhetoric about Brexit, the Tory manifesto is thin gruel. They are on the back foot. Scared of provoking a backlash, the Tories have put forward an empty manifesto. By re-hashing their old austerity policies under the hashtag of #getbrexitdone, the Tories reveal who they really are; skittish and squabbling representatives of the billionaire class, desperately clinging to power.
Corbyn’s Labour manifesto, although imperfect, does represent an opportunity for the many to reassert their interests against the few. Socialist Alternative supports all the progressive, anti-austerity policies Corbyn is pledging. But we say in order to succeed in the face of inevitable sabotage by the capitalists, he will need to go further - fundamentally undermining their power by taking into public ownership the major monopolies that dominate the economy, putting workers in control, and paving the way for the socialist reorganisation of society. From Thatcher, to Blair, to Cameron to now, the banks, big business and the super-rich have been well represented in Westminster. For more than a generation, capitalists have had political parties they can rely upon, but not any more.