By Tim Hardy
Let me talk about heroes.
Heroes are the nurses who work in our hospitals, the sisters and brothers who help the sick maintain their dignity in the face of illness, dispensing medicine, patiently changing soiled linen and dressings, feeding and assisting the immobile and bringing cheer and compassion to a situation that is confusing, frightening and lonely.
Heroes are the doctors who, after years of study, work punishing hours in difficult circumstances to help diagnose and treat those who are ill and in pain.
Heroes are the members of the army medical services in the First World War and of the emergency medical service in the Second whose sacrifice and courage saved countless lives and gave comfort to the dying. Their example was the proof that Bevan needed that a national health service might work.
The National Health Service is the envy of the world, a service fit for heroes, built by heroes and staffed by heroes – and a service under threat from the Conservative government.
When you are ill, you do not want to be worrying about how much it is going to cost you or whether or not to report a worrying symptom to a doctor out of fear of how expensive an expert opinion might prove. Anxiety about the price of medical treatment kills.
We have seen what private care means in the failure of Southern Cross: massive payouts for company directors and investors while elderly residents are left wondering if they are to be made homeless.
We have seen what private health care means in Winterbourne View residential hospital in Bristol where vulnerable adults were systematically abused to the point of torture by staff until journalists finally exposed the scandal.
There is no place for markets in healthcare.
Faith in markets is at best a delusion, at worst a cynical lie used by those who plan to get rich from the opening up of services to profiteers. It is folly, an idea to be cast in the dustbin of history like the belief that the sun revolves around the earth.
Look around you. Look at impossible house prices, spiralling rents, escalating food costs, the continued, cascading failure of the finance industry – markets do not work. Look at the environmental destruction around you – the freedom of markets at all costs cannot be the only thing of value in our society.
The trouble with so-called free markets is that they deliver only for the rich.
David Cameron lies.
He lied before the election saying that he would protect the NHS.
He lied at the dispatch box claiming doctors and nurses backed his proposed changes to the health service.
He lied again today at his party conference claiming that he is doing the best for the service – all the while pushing through hasty, unnecessary reforms that will open the NHS up to exploitation and abuse from private providers who will put profit above care.
David Cameron lies when he talks about heroes because his reforms desecrate the memory of those who sacrificed so much to build a system of public health that is the envy of the world.
Over and over again, he and his fellow Tories tell us there is no money left – yet they are spending £2 billion on a set of reforms that represent an irreversible step towards the privatisation of the National Health Service, a process that will see the poorest denied the care they need because the markets care only for profit.
These changes are an irrevocable step towards the privatisation of the NHS and must be blocked.
The National Health Service is an example for the world and a model for the kind of society we might build if we didn’t allow those consumed by greed to rule us.
Recently Cameron has taken to stealing slogans from the left but this is our fightback and we will not stand idle while he destroys the NHS.
This Sunday I will be on Westminster Bridge along with thousands of others who are coming from all over the country because we care deeply about the NHS and will not see it vanish without a fight.
Come and join us on Sunday October 9th at 1pm on Westminster Bridge. Block the Bridge, Block the Bill. It is the least we can do to honour the heroes who built our health service.