STOP the ‘Going to Work Tax’ on NHS workers!

This is the latest leaflet from the Socialist Party fighting hospital parking charges:

As Government plans to bring back Hospital Parking Charges for NHS staff:

STOP the ‘Going to Work Tax’ on NHS workers!

The “Going to Work Tax” on NHS workers is a disgrace.

Socialist Party and other NHS campaigners vow to redouble our efforts to oppose Hospital parking charges.

We’ll be stepping up our campaign to stop the government re-imposing a ‘going to work’ tax on our NHS workers” said former Socialist Party councillor Dave Nellist.

The Government recently announced that measures to stop NHS workers having to pay to park at work will be ended.

Socialists have been campaigning against Hospital Parking charges for years, but we’re sure that most people in our city will be outraged at the Government backtracking on this.

Our workers were ‘heroes’ for a few months now they face a bill of hundreds of pounds a year, being charged to turn up to work to be those heroes.

People should not be being charged to go to work and nor should people be charged for being ill and having to attend hospital and certainly not to boost the profits of a private company.

It’s reasonable for hospitals to cover costs of providing parking, but this is a private company, not the NHS, that is making millions of pounds profits every year from hospital parking charges. And those profits are soaring, from £2m a year at the start to nearly £7m last year.

We see this profit extraction from our NHS happening more and more as more NHS services are being handed out to private companies.

We welcome the Early Day Motion put by local MP Zarah Sultana, calling for free parking for staff –though we’d have liked it to be signed by a lot more than just 24 Labour MP’s.

We need public support more than ever to pressure this shameless government and the private companies behind them. We’ll be out even more collecting signatures but maybe you could help get a petition sheet circulated. If so, message Dave via 07530 429441.

 

Disgrace of over 4 million children in poverty!

Low pay, no way! photo Paul Mattsson

Article by Jane Nellist, Socialist Party Member and Coventry NEU [Personal Capacity]

Austerity policies from successive governments have pushed an increasing number of  families into poverty.  Over 4 million children live in poverty in the UK and that number is rapidly rising.  That is over 30% of all children in a country that is one of the wealthiest in the world!

The Tory cuts to welfare benefits and the underfunded Universal Credit scheme has left families in crisis- whilst the rich continue to be insulated from austerity.

Children from black and minority ethnic groups are more likely to be in poverty:   45% are now in poverty, which makes the Black Lives Matter campaigns even more important.

Disgracefully, two thirds of children living in poverty have at least one parent in work, many working long hours with very low pay.  Rising living costs, low wages and cuts to benefits are creating a perfect storm in which more children are falling into the poverty trap.

But it’s not just the lack of money that impacts on  poorer families. Services that families would turn to for support, are no longer there.  The huge cuts to Local Authorities funding, down 49%, with an unwillingness of councils to mount campaigns and use their reserves, hits the poorest families hard.  Children’s centres,  youth clubs, libraries and other support services are either cut to the bone or have disappeared. The safety net the working class had fought for has huge holes or has been taken away all together.

Barnsley Unison lobby of council cabinet 29.5.19, photo A Tice

Free school meals and  breakfast clubs, whilst not enough, have helped to ensure that children get a balanced meal during the day at school but ‘holiday’ hunger takes it toll on families.  The absolute catastrophe of the government’s voucher system during Covid-19 saw more and more families turn to food banks to feed their families.

The decision by the Tories to discontinue the  free school meals vouchers during the summer holidays has enraged families was spectacularly overturned following the letter from  Marcus Rashford, Manchester United and England footballer.  He wrote passionately, highlighting his own experiences. He wrote, “The system was not built for families like mine to succeed, regardless of how hard my mum worked.” This system does not work for millions of people which is why we fight so hard to change it!

Housing and childcare are two of the costs that take the biggest toll on families’ budgets.  But it’s not just finding a roof over your head, it’s the quality of housing that has the biggest impact. Energy costs for poorer families are high due the reliance on pre-paid cards. Families should not have to make choices between heating or eating!

Too many disadvantaged families are living in cramped conditions, especially in cities with no outdoor space, sometimes in just one room. It’s a nightmare at any time, but during the ‘lockdown’ it’s even worse. The lack of good quality council housing is a scandal – with private landlords making a fortune!

With schools still closed to most pupils, and a reliance on home schooling, much of it ‘on-line’, a national free Broadband scheme and free laptops would ensure young people could access the tools to help their learning. Yet again, the government’s promises have failed, and educational inequalities will increase enormously.

Thousands more families are living on the edge of poverty. One unexpected setback,  like redundancy or an illness or even cuts to hours- could push them into the poverty trap. The furlough scheme has helped in the short term to alleviate some of the risk, but as the government seek to pull back from this, we will see a huge rise in the number of families facing catastrophe.

The storms that were already  gathering because of a worldwide economic crisis, and made worse by the pandemic, will mean even more misery for millions, unless a mass movement of the working class rise up.  Capitalism is designed to serve the bosses and keep the rich enveloped in their wealth.  Our job as socialists, is to turn the world upside down and fight for the 99% and ensure that every family and every child has all their needs met through a democratic planned socialist system.

Help fight for a socialist society to end poverty for good – be one of the hundreds of people who has registered to join us this month!

 

 

“We’ve got to organise and overthrow capitalism” – Socialist Party member speaks at Black Lives Matter protest

Below is the speech from Deji Olay [Birmingham Socialist Party] at the massive Black Lives Matter protest in Coventry on Sunday 7th June.

Click to hear Deji’s speech yourself on our Facebook page!

My name’s Deji, I’m a member of the Socialist Party, and I’m here for the same reason as all of you. Because we’ve seen too much injustice, we’ve seen too much police brutality, and we’ve seen too much harm being done to our communities, and to our world around us.

And its not a bug; its a feature. This is systematic. The country’s democracy is a sham, and these laws are there to protect the elite. They’re there to protect capitalism, order, to protect the guys that control everything. But they don’t protect our communities, they don’t protect us. Its a racist elite that choose these laws. Its a racist elite that choose police violence because it protects their stores, and it protects their wealth. But we don’t own the stores; we just work in them. We don’t choose these laws. We don’t own these offices, we just work in them, and these laws aren’t for us.

We need to change the system. We need to protect our communities, we need to protect our libraries, and we need to protect ourselves. We need socialism to fund our libraries, and we need socialism to fund our gyms, and we need socialism to fund our community services.

Rest in peace, everyone that died because of police brutality. Rest in peace, everyone that died in Grenfell tower.

deji

This country has weaponised racism for profit. This country, the leaders, have got their wealth on the back of slaves. They got their wealth from Africa. They got their profits from exploiting Nigeria, South Africa… and they’re still profiting from Africa.

In America, in the UK, in the Caribbean, in Africa, we are all one people.

We’re all living under the same system. And nothing will change until we change this system, until we get rid of this racism, until we get rid of capitalism.

We’ve got to organise. Like the Haitians when they overthrew slavery, we’ve got to organise and overthrow capitalism in this country and in the world.

We need to educate ourselves after this demo. Because these people, they promised us education, but all they’ve given us is tests and scores and bull**** educations.

We need to learn about the Black Panthers Party, and we need to read about Huey P. Newton, and we need to read about Freddy Hampton, and we need to learn about the Black Panthers’ revolutionary programme. And we need to read Karl Marx because they did.

We’ll learn that racism won’t go without changing the entire system. Because its not just a few bad apples, its structural problems. Its these problems. Fred Hampton was the leader of the Black Panthers, and he built a rainbow coalition, uniting white people, Asian people, black people against racism, sexism, and capitalism. That’s why I’m so happy to see so many to see so many different people out here tonight…

I’ll finish with his words: we’re going to fight racism, not with racism, but we’re going to fight it with solidarity. We’re not going to fight capitalism with black capitalism, we’re going to fight it with socialism!

Join the struggle against racism and capitalism! Join the Socialist Party today!

Black and Asian Covid-19 deaths: an indictment of capitalist inequality

This analysis from Jim Hensman [Coventry Socialist Party] of the Socialist Party BAME group was published in issue #1088 of The Socialist newspaper.

The figures for Covid-19 coronavirus deaths broken down by ethnicity caused widespread shock and anger when they were released on 7 May by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

After adjusting for age, black men were 4.2 times more likely to die than white men. The equivalent figure for Bangladeshi and Pakistani men was 3.6, and for Indian men 2.4, with similar proportions for women.

Figures for other black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups paralleled this to different extents.

The first ten doctors to die from the coronavirus were all BAME. The government was forced to promise that Public Health England would provide a report by the end of May.

There has been pressure for an independent inquiry, and the Labour Party has also launched its own investigation.

We may find out more through these investigations. But it is vital for socialists to understand what key factors lie underneath the grim statistics now, to determine how to fight back and rectify them.

The government’s general approach is to divert attention from its failures by peddling the line that it has done the best that was possible – in the circumstances.

The Tories attempt to shift any remaining blame and responsibility onto the individual.

With regard to disproportionate BAME death rates, the government points to supposed genetic factors particularly. This idea was taken up by a University College London epidemiologist, Professor Nishi Chaturvedi. “There’s no evidence that genes explain the excess risk of Covid susceptibility. It’s important to put a nail in that one because it feels as if we can abdicate any responsibility for sorting this out, and this really isn’t the case.”

In the US, attempts to put responsibility on the individual have reached farcical proportions. Jerome Adams, the (black) surgeon general appointed by Donald Trump, stated that to avoid the virus, “African Americans and Latinos should avoid alcohol, drugs and tobacco”!

 

Inequalities key

But as the pandemic has developed, the key factors that have emerged as responsible for inequalities in death rates are inequalities in society as a whole.

Consider poverty. The government uses a measure called the Index of Multiple Deprivation to help allocate local spending. ONS figures showed that in England and Wales, the most-deprived areas on this index had twice the coronavirus death rate of the least deprived.

Deaths, in general, are not recorded by ethnicity. But the connection can be inferred. Government figures from 2019 found black people were 56% more likely than the national average to be in the ‘persistent low income’ category. Asian people were twice as likely.

Occupation statistics are another indicator. A higher proportion of BAME workers are in ‘low-skilled’ jobs than the average. ONS figures showed men in ‘low-skilled’ jobs were four times more likely to die from the coronavirus than men in professional jobs.

Similarly, they found that women working in ‘low-skilled’ care jobs were twice as likely to die from the coronavirus as those in professional and technical jobs. In London, 67% of the adult social care workforce is BAME.

Overcrowded housing is yet another key risk factor. According to a 2018 government survey, 2% of white British households experienced overcrowding according to their definition. This compared to 15% of black African, 16% of Pakistani, and 30% of Bangladeshi households.

General health is an important consideration too. Existing health problems are significant contributors towards coronavirus fatalities. But the capitalist establishment states this as if it is a given, caused either by bad luck or an individual’s bad ‘lifestyle choices’ – frequently brought up in relation to ethnic minorities.

However, general health too is linked to the inequality of class-based society. In February 2020, a team led by the distinguished academic Michael Marmot published its latest Health Equity in England report. Using life expectancy as a general index of health, Marmot found there had been no improvement in the last decade – something unprecedented in over a hundred years.

The report highlighted the role of austerity in this. Among women in the most-deprived areas, life expectancy had actually fallen! The time people spent suffering poor health had increased since 2010 – directly increasing vulnerability to the coronavirus.

How this particularly affected BAME individuals was highlighted in a report from the British Heart Foundation. “Before the outbreak of Covid-19, BAME populations were already more likely to suffer ill health, including heart and circulatory diseases and their risk factors such as high blood pressure and diabetes, and from a younger age. Much of this is linked to social and economic inequalities rather than genetics.”

 

Other factors?

But do social inequalities explain all the discrepancy in BAME death rates? The ONS carried out an analysis which tried to measure how social conditions impacted on BAME deaths – so it could adjust the figures to take this into account. It is worth looking at this in detail.

ONS statisticians constructed a model for predicting coronavirus deaths in general. It used factors like location and the deprivation index associated with it, housing and other information, and indications of individual health and disabilities.

What they were effectively asking was: if you were white, but lived in the same area, had the same type of housing, and so on – would you still have died?

They found this reduced the discrepancy in the numbers. For black men and women it was now 1.9 times the white figure, and for Bangladeshi and Pakistani men 1.8 times – so the figure had roughly halved. This is a direct indication that class inequality drives up coronavirus deaths.

But what about the remaining half of the discrepancy that was still unexplained? To get an idea of what might account for this, we need to examine what the statisticians were doing a little more closely.

The government often tries to hide behind the claim that it is “driven by the science”. This is untrue; it is driven by the defence of the profit system, and its own political survival. But even if it was true, science always has to be seen in its context, so in a case like this it is important to dig deeper.

Let’s start with a simple example. Overcrowding is one of the factors the ONS tried to take into account. At any time, this can clearly have a detrimental effect on health. However, with the coronavirus, it takes on another dimension.

Everyone would have been deeply touched by the tragic stories of families in accommodation who share toilet and bathroom facilities with other families. This makes it almost impossible to self-isolate, despite desperate attempts to do so, often with the result that the infection spreads between families.

This situation will particularly be experienced by the poor. So it will be reflected to a higher extent in BAME people, including groups such as asylum seekers and refugees living in hostels and similar accommodation.

The problem is that general indications of overcrowding, which the ONS and others have to rely on, would not reflect the more specific situations that may affect ethnic minorities in cases like these.

Overcrowding can negatively impact on other factors known to influence coronavirus mortality. This includes intergenerational family groups living together – a situation with a higher prevalence among certain ethnic minorities.

And the ONS itself released numbers on 14 May showing that black people in England were nearly four times as likely as white people to have no outdoor space at home. Especially when the weather is warm and sunny, as it has been, people will need to make more use of outdoor spaces.

The ONS actually produced statistics showing average distances people would have to go to do this. But crowded parks can become hotspots for coronavirus transmission. Councils around the country have even closed parks, sometimes counterproductively.

Information like this about the different factors that can individually affect health, but also interact with each other, is clearly relevant. But it is not necessarily measured, and in some cases can be more difficult to quantify or record. Therefore, it may not be taken into account.

There is a technical point relating to this which illustrates how science is not a single objective representation of reality, but rather is influenced by many considerations. The methodology used by the ONS in this study on BAME deaths is called ‘logistic regression’. This method is not intrinsically suited to representing interactions between causative factors in general – which, as we have seen, could be relevant.

 

Health workers

Deaths among health workers have rightly received a lot of publicity. They can perhaps provide us with the best indication of what is going on, because of the greater detail available.

The figures for BAME deaths are stark. Taking the NHS as a whole, about 21% of staff are BAME. But figures released at the end of April showed that, up to then, they had accounted for 64% of NHS staff deaths from the coronavirus. So the huge discrepancy in society generally is also reflected here.

But how could this be? These were people working for the NHS, not a cross-section of all society. Doctors, for example, could hardly be said to sit at the bottom of the socioeconomic tree.

In mid-May, ITV News released a survey of more than 2,000 NHS staff, and broadcast interviews with a number of them. A key thing this showed was that there were many more BAME staff in frontline roles – with higher exposure to the virus. The reasons appear to be a combination of two factors.

The first factor is that, within each given health role such as doctor or nurse, all staff at lower grades have higher death rates. This is one expression, on a smaller scale, of some of the economic inequalities in class society generally. And within each given role, BAME staff are more likely to be in the lower levels.

According to one health charity, The King’s Fund: “On average, black doctors in the NHS earn £10,000 less and black nurses earn £2,700 less annually than white colleagues. Minority ethnic-group staff are systematically over-represented at lower levels of the NHS grade hierarchy, and under-represented in senior pay bands.”

This helps explain the situation in what would seem to be a relatively privileged group, the doctors. One BAME consultant cardiologist explained it like this in the ITV survey: “Many of the white doctors are in management positions, leaving more BAME at the coalface.”

This differentiation occurs at every level. NHS information shows it is mirrored with junior and senior doctors, and junior and senior manager grades.

The second factor is clearly direct racism and discrimination. Half of the respondents in the ITV survey felt that this played a part in the high death rate, and 20% said they had experienced it personally.

One BAME doctor reported that “suggestions from the BAME group are not taken by hospital management. The concerns or comments are ignored. Not a single BAME member was included in the Covid response team.”

A number of workers, including a Filipino nurse who appeared on the programme, stated they were scared to speak out about concerns like the shortage of PPE, because they feared losing their jobs.

In some cases, visa regulations and other measures made staff even more vulnerable to this.

Both socioeconomic factors and racism are thus responsible for the higher number of BAME deaths. But these causes are not independent. They interact with each other: discrimination is obviously the key factor in BAME workers tending to be among the staff in harder-hit lower grades.

 

Class and race

What can we conclude overall about BAME death rates? It is possible that much more of the discrepancy between white and BAME deaths is based on class inequalities than officially estimated. But racism is nevertheless also a very important factor.

Although it’s not ruled out that other factors may play some subsidiary role, class inequality and racism are undoubtedly the main problems. The key question is: how can they be addressed?

The struggle against racism and institutionalised racism must be a priority. BAME workers will need to play a central part in this. But racism cannot be separated from issues of class inequality.

The struggles against each must be combined. Inadequate PPE, for example, may impact on BAME workers to a higher extent – but it still affects all frontline workers, and must be fought against as part of a general struggle by all workers.

There are many ways to fight, but crucial will be trade union and political action. If existing workers’ institutions in these fields do not prove adequate for the task, they must be transformed or replaced.

The workers’ movement must also be careful not to be diverted into playing off one section against another. BAME workers are particularly affected in many areas, but not alone, and not necessarily in all areas.

For instance, 95% of care home residents are white. But obviously, a campaign against the care home deaths scandal is not just a ‘white issue’.

The traditional motto of the workers’ movement – an injury to one is an injury to all – must be central to all struggles.

There are lessons from a previous disaster. On 14 June 2017, a fire broke out in Grenfell Tower in west London. Over 75% of those who died had a BAME background. This was definitely a BAME issue.

So how could the campaign make sure this atrocity is not repeated? Undoubtedly, BAME workers are disproportionately residents of similar, unsafe working-class accommodation. But the only guarantee would be eliminating unsafe housing in the population as a whole.

In one sense, we can consider the Covid-19 death toll, at its peak in Britain, equivalent to 15 Grenfell Towers a day.

There are more lessons from Grenfell. One is on public inquiries. These can be used by campaigns to apply pressure and get information, so they shouldn’t be disregarded.

But the abject failure of the Grenfell inquiry, nearly three years after the fire, is a warning not to place too much reliance on anything similar with regard to coronavirus deaths.

Neither, if something is a BAME issue, can we rely on BAME politicians for support simply by dint of their being BAME. We only need to consider Priti Patel and Rishi Sunak.

The failure of a strategy which looks to individual racial representation rather than class politics is underlined by the tragic situation in the US today. Many of the worst-affected cities with large black populations have had black mayors – as well, of course, as the country having had a black president.

The excessive rate of coronavirus BAME deaths is important and highlights several aspects of what is wrong with society under capitalism.

What is required is taking up the fight against this scandal as part of the wider class struggle, and linking it to the fight for a socialist society that will eliminate the inequalities and irrationalities of the current economic and social system.

Coventry Says Justice for George Floyd! Report from Tuesday 2nd June Demo

Read the reports from across the country here: Early June anti-racist demonstrations across Britain

Cov BLM 2nd
On Tuesday 2 June members of Coventry Socialist Party proudly joined several hundred people at Coventry’s ‘Justice for George Floyd’ protest.

Black youth led the protest on a spontaneous peaceful march across the city centre, rallying outside the police station twice. Protesters were furious at George Floyd’s murder, the brutal response of US police, and the ongoing racism and police violence black people face in the US and here.

Chants of “no justice, no peace!” and “I can’t breathe; black lives matter!” rang through the city as the huge demonstration blocked roads.
Speakers called for justice for other victims of police violence including Darren Cumberbatch, a black man from Coventry who died in 2017 after police punched him 10-15 times and used a taser on him.

Some also spoke about the fight for black lives across Africa, where they pointed to the mass exploitation of black people across the continent at the hands of imperialism.

Socialist Party members brought leaflets, posters, and petitions calling for a mass movement to smash racism. We pointed to capitalism as the cause of racism and the need for socialist change and a united fight of all workers to end it.

And our message was popular – we sold out of copies of the Socialist and ran out of our 300 leaflets before the protest ended!

How the NHS Was Made Unprepared for Covid

5The following article has been published in the May edition of Socialism Today, our monthly magazine carrying up-to-date socialist analysis of events in Britain and internationally.

This article will be of interest to our readers as the Coronavirus pandemic continues to stretch services at Walsgrave Hospital, our local PFI hospital predicted to pay out £3.7 billion to profiteering private investors despite initial investments being worth just a tenth at £379 million.

You can subscribe to Socialism Today here: Subscribe

Despite the heroic efforts of health workers the NHS has been ill-prepared to cope with the coronavirus pandemic. But the roots of this lie in years of neo-liberal policies, including the marketisation drive of the New Labour governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, argues Jon Dale.

Ten years of ConDem coalition and Tory austerity left the NHS ill-prepared for the sudden huge increase in very ill patients suffering from Covid-19. Over 100,000 unfilled staff posts (one in twelve), 17,000 fewer beds to their lowest level ever, equipment and personal protective equipment (PPE) stockpiles run down – these resulted from annual 1% funding increases when 4% was needed just to stand still.

Financial cuts were aggravated by years of upheaval following Tory Health Secretary Andrew Lansley’s Health and Social Care Act (2012). This caused such disruption to services that even his successor, Jeremy Hunt, was forced to row back on some of its measures. Lansley wanted NHS services provided by ‘any willing provider’ – private companies who would tender to win contracts. In a dire financial situation the lowest tenders were always likely to be picked, whatever the price in terms of quality. The drive towards privatisation has weakened NHS capacity to respond to Covid-19’s challenge.

But Lansley followed tracks left by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s 1997-2010 New Labour governments. Although elected pledging to end Thatcher’s NHS ‘internal market’, within four years Labour re-introduced and accelerated it. Frank Dobson, Blair’s first health secretary and an old-style Labour right winger, was shunted aside in 1999 to make way for Alan Milburn, who was fully committed to the project.

“We must develop an acceptance of more market-oriented incentives with a modern, reinvigorated ethos of public service”, said Blair in 2003. “We should be far more radical about the role of the state as regulator rather than provider, opening up health care, for example, to a mixed economy under the NHS umbrella”. ‘Market-oriented incentives’ meant big business profits.

Blair and Milburn saw the role of the NHS (and other public services) as planning and monitoring (the ‘regulator’), paying private companies to be ‘providers’. Milburn negotiated a ‘Concordat’ with the private sector, inviting them to take over clinical services paid for by the taxpayer. (After leaving government he became a well-paid adviser to Bridgepoint, a venture capital company closely involved with NHS privatisation. Another Labour Health Secretary, Patricia Hewitt, took a similar path after government, working for Syngenta.)

Tony Blair’s health policy adviser at the time was Simon Stevens, who subsequently became Vice-President of United Health, the giant USA health corporation. He is now the NHS Chief Executive, appointed by David Cameron. Stevens’ Five Year Forward View, due to be completed in 2021, breaks up England’s national service into 44 ‘Integrated Care Systems’, modelled along the lines of US Health Management Organisations and ripe for takeover by such companies. Had this plan been completed, the NHS response to Covid-19 would have been completely disjointed.

Neo-liberalism in public health policy

Capitalism tries to turn everything into commodities to be bought and sold. Profit-seeking corporations were happy to accept Blair’s invitations to carry out x number of hip replacements or y number of MRI scans. Less well-defined areas of health care, such as contingency planning for a possible pandemic in the next 20 years, were never likely to attract the marketeers.

Turning the NHS into a market led to a huge increase in health workers’ time measuring activities that could be priced and paid for. Contracts needed negotiating, results counted, procedures invoiced and paid for, disputes legally challenged and so on. Frank Dobson complained that “paperwork used to cost 4% of the NHS budget, but now costs 15-16%”. (The Guardian, 24 March 2006) The proportion of NHS staff in management increased from 2.7% in 1999 to 3.6% in 2009.

In 2002 the authoritative British Medical Journal published a biased flawed article written by a World Bank associate and former employees of Kaiser Permanente, the massive Californian health insurance company. It claimed Kaiser was cheaper and more efficient than the NHS, but compared costs for medically insured (mostly healthy) people to NHS costs, which included caring for older people and those with long-term conditions. Nevertheless, the article was used by Milburn’s Department of Health to justify accelerating privatisation. United Health and other companies were awarded the first contracts to provide the NHS with clinical services.

2

Then Coventry Councillor Dave Nellist on NHS demonstration 1st November 2006, photo Paul Mattsson

Foundation Trust status was created in 2003. Hospitals and Primary Care Trusts could become semi-independent, no longer under direct Department of Health control. They were able to borrow money on the private market, enter into commercial agreements with private providers, and generally run as commercial companies.

 

Although ‘non-profit making’, Foundation Trusts could form profit-making joint ventures with private corporations and also sell off NHS assets, especially land. Competing for patients (who brought in ‘payments’) with other Trusts undermined the collaboration needed to plan services to meet community needs and absolutely vital during a pandemic. The scandalous treatment of elderly people with Covid-19 in privatised care homes, cared for by insufficient staff paid even less than the pitifully low NHS rates, is also partly a result of this competition.

The proportion of GDP spent on the NHS under Labour went up from 5.4% cent in 1996-97 to 8.5% in 2009-10. However, much of this increase ended up in private bank accounts through contracted out services and Private Finance Initiative (PFI) construction.

A former head of NatWest bank, Derek Wanless, was commissioned by New Labour to report on future NHS funding in 2002. With his background he was regarded as ‘someone the government could trust’. Pleased with his report, Gordon Brown asked him for another, which came out in 2004.

“Individuals are ultimately responsible for their own and their children’s health”, wrote Wanless. “People need to be supported more actively to make better decisions about their own health and welfare”. He anticipated a dramatic improvement in health and life expectancy through ‘efficient’ use of NHS resources and increased use of technology, saving an estimated £30 billion.

This outlook saw much ill-health as the result of individual failings rather than society’s. A COPD (chronic lung disease) sufferer needed support to stop smoking (which of course some did), but air pollution, damp housing, dusty working conditions, lack of accessible exercise facilities and other factors outside individual control got much less priority.

Boris Johnson’s government echoed this approach with its initial Covid-19 advice, placing responsibility for controlling the epidemic on hand-washing and coughing into our elbows, rather than testing everyone with symptoms, then tracing and isolating their contacts.

Blairism and the SARS experience

The 2002-04 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak was a global alarm bell of future pandemics. Like Covid-19, SARS was a new coronavirus crossing from animals to humans and then spreading between humans. Starting in China, where the regime covered up its emergence for months, it had a big impact in Hong Kong and Vietnam.

However, although SARS had a higher death rate than Covid-19 it was less infectious so did not cause the massive number of cases and deaths we see now. Twenty-eight countries recorded cases with 774 deaths, including 22 in Toronto in Canada. The Chinese economy accounted for 4% of world trade in 2003 compared to 14% in 2019, with many more people from all over the world travelling to and from China.

In 2004 another infectious disease reinforced the lessons from SARS. A new influenza virus spread from wild birds to poultry to humans. Industrial-scale poultry farming produced the ideal environment for its rapid spread. Many countries in East Asia had to slaughter all poultry to stop the disease spreading. Some farm and veterinary workers became ill and a few died but this virus did not spread from human to human. More dangerous was so-called ‘swine flu’ in 2009-10, first identified in Mexico. It spread quickly around the world with between 151,700 and 575,400 deaths estimated to have occurred.

What was New Labour’s response? They were certainly warned of these dangerous threats. Speaking in a House of Lords debate on SARS in May 2003, Baroness Finlay, a doctor and cross-bencher, said: “As of yesterday, there were 187 deaths in Hong Kong, principally among those who had a history of chronic disease… 20% of cases are among healthcare workers and their families and the volunteers working with SARS patients”.

“Research among healthcare workers”, she went on, “has shown that those who have become infected have had a significant failure in using one of the protections, particularly a surgical mask. Paper masks are inadequate… Long hospital stays are required… It is reckoned that 23% of sufferers have required intensive care and ventilation”.

“I ask the minister: could we cope with such a situation here if we had a similar number of sufferers? Could we cope in terms of the supply of masks? In Hong Kong there has been a major voluntary fund-raising effort to buy enough equipment to provide the staff with adequate masks, gowns and gloves. Are we accepting adequate precautions here? Do we have enough supplies of disposables? Could we cope – or do we have to take the model of the giving people who have worked in healthcare in China and Hong Kong to try to contain the epidemic so as to protect us?”

In the same debate Lord Turnberg (then Chair of the Public Health Laboratory Service – PHLS – and a Labour peer until 2019) said: “Some people might think that the £50-£60 million per year provided by the Department of Health for the Public Health Laboratory Service – which, interestingly, contrasts with the £170 million that we heard about for advertising – is so small as to suggest an unthinking disregard for the dangers that come from neglecting our defences against infection… the Chief Medical Officer has clearly stated that the change to the Health Protection Agency is to be achieved without additional funds”.

Other speakers in the debate made similar points. Yet New Labour went ahead to break up the PHLS and privatise NHS Logistics – two factors to have direct bearing on the current Covid-19 crisis.

PHLS dated back to world war two, when the threat of germ warfare loomed. It was formally established in the 1946 National Health Service Act to investigate disease outbreaks, drinking water and food products. In 2005 it was disbanded and its functions transferred to a new ‘arms length organisation’, the Health Protection Agency (which the Tories later turned into Public Health England). Its specialised laboratory work was hived off to hospital laboratories around the country, becoming a poor relation to the pressures of daily clinical tests in an NHS increasingly cash-starved by the Tories.

Hospital pathology (laboratory) services were prime targets for profit-seeking business. In 2009 a joint venture between Guys and St Thomas Hospital Trust and Serco formed Viapath, the largest pathology service provider in the UK. Kings College Hospital joined in 2010. A 2013 audit into three of its 15 laboratories found the NHS had been overcharged £283,561 in a three-month period. Internal emails revealed clinicians protesting that the company had an “inherent inability… to understand that you cannot cut corners and put cost saving above quality”. (The Independent, 27 August 2014)

The PHLS had a potentially profitable activity, supplying laboratories with materials needed to culture bacteria and viruses for testing. This was sold to Oxoid Ltd in 2005, becoming a subsidiary of Thermo Fisher Scientific – a $25 billion US corporation.

Johnson’s government has failed to organise Covid-19 testing on the required scale. Long-term lack of investment in hospital pathology services and privatisation, started by Blair, are part of this situation.

Privatisation, PFI and Profiteering undermined pandemic planning

and ‘pen pushing’ rose from 4% of the NHS budget to nearly 16%

In bed with Big Pharma

3

Protest on workers’ memorial day, 28.4.20, in London, photo London SP

Blair’s government did prepare for a future pandemic in one way, stockpiling enough anti-flu drugs to treat 25% of the population. Tamiflu was made by Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche, Relenza by British company GlaxoSmithKline. The cost was £650 million but the money turned out to be wasted.

 

Between 2009 and 2013 independent researchers repeatedly asked for reports of the drug trials the companies had carried out or commissioned. Through persistent work the researchers eventually discovered that only some evidence available to Roche and Glaxo had ever been published. Drug trials had been deliberately designed to give the answers company executives demanded. Trials showing significant side effects or few, if any, benefits were suppressed. In fact, both drugs only shortened flu symptoms by about half a day with no reduction in serious complications requiring hospital admission.

Once the threat from SARS passed, pharmaceutical industry research into new anti-viral treatments dwindled. A financial analyst commented “many companies would hesitate to invest in this field. If the profit margins are horrible, why would any company take that chance otherwise?” (Washington Post, 27 November 2004)

Covid-19 shows vaccine research and manufacturing capacity must be enormously increased – dozens if not hundreds of new factories around the world are required. Traditional vaccine manufacturing facilities take three to five years to build and cost $500-600 million. Then there are filling and packing facilities needed to produce individual doses. Capitalist drug companies won’t invest in new vaccine production that might not be needed between pandemics.

New Labour’s 2005 privatisation of NHS Logistics (NHSL) handed an integrated system of purchasing, stockholding and distributing NHS supplies to DHL, the giant German courier company. This laid the roots for the current PPE crisis. ‘Just-in-time’ principles for supplying NHS trusts and maintaining stock levels meant that when there is a major outbreak, such as now, the system is already at full capacity and therefore struggles to meet extra demand.

In 2018 DHL failed to win a new contract, resulting in fragmentation into 13 different contracts for procurement, warehousing and distribution and marketing. The biggest was won by Unipart, better known for supplying components to the motor industry.

Despite a managing company, Supply Chain Coordination Ltd, which sets contracts on behalf of the Department of Health and Social Care, these divisions and poor planning have exacerbated problems of getting sufficient PPE to frontline services. This January management started reducing stock levels – right at the time that Covid-19 was developing in China!

We are paying the price today for decades of NHS under-investment, cuts and privatisation. Public health services, laboratory facilities, hospital beds and equipment, PPE and social care have all been strained to breaking point. Where was the robust contingency planning for infectious disease pandemics – predictable in their occurrence if not their timing and cause?

Unfortunately Jeremy Corbyn, when Labour leader, did not disown the record of the Blair and Brown governments, although he had voted against Foundation Trusts himself. Keir Starmer as Labour leader is not likely to attack that record. But a future Labour government would be unable to reverse damage the NHS has suffered without abolishing Foundation Trusts, renationalising privatised services, and scrapping PFI.

Moreover, the shortage of diagnostic tests, vaccines and lack of anti-viral treatments show a negligent pharmaceutical industry only concerned with short-term profits.

The industry needs to be taken into public ownership, on a global scale. All the big corporations should be nationalised, with no compensation except where proven need. Democratic planning by workers in the industry including scientists, medical experts, engineers and trade unions together with community representatives and socialist governments would ensure production was geared to meet need, not profit.

Medical supplies, including PPE, ventilators and other essential equipment must also be part of a democratically planned nationalised industry. The ingenuity shown by many workers quickly adapting machines and using their skills to produce PPE and ventilators is a glimpse of the possibilities under a future socialist society.

coronavirusRead the Coronavirus Workers’ Charter

West Mids Socialist Party Discusses The Fight Against Coronavirus In Workplaces

On Thursday Socialist Party members in the West Midlands met online in a forum to talk through workplace situations during the coronavirus pandemic, and discuss strategy to defend workers’ health against some truly despicable management practices from the private and public sectors.

The meeting included tax officers, teachers, union staff, probation officers, railway staff, shop and warehouse workers and more, as well as comrades recently made unemployed.

We heard that some MoJ and HMRC office management have been flagrantly ignoring government advice on working from home, that most supply teachers have been furloughed but no money has been paid out from the furlough scheme yet, that rail staff have had to fight for weeks to get social distancing in work. Despite heaps of praise for shop workers by their employers, supermarket upper management have utterly failed in protecting their staff by denying them PPE and anything close to social distancing.

Success in health and safety has only been won by the organised determined action of workers. Vigilant campaigns have ensured adequate PPE, social distancing, remote working, and even furloughing at 100% pay.

27440

Workers have been winning PPE and protective measures to protect from Covid-19 at work.

In an incredible success of worker action, one non-unionised office in the West Mids organised their own rotas to ensure skeleton staff to keep the office functioning, keeping the majority of workers home and the rest safely distanced. Management there had insisted they would all need to be in office, but the workers forced the managers to adopt their rota model!

Many workers have successfully struggled to ensure their safety from coronavirus in the West Midlands and across the country, but too often this has been with the absence of trade union leaders.

The leaderships of some of the biggest unions in the UK representing hundreds of thousands of workers have failed to lead the fight to defend their members’ safety. In this meeting Socialist Party members spoke out against union right wingers and careerists who have been far too concerned with bureaucracy and stalled negotiations with the government and employers, risking workers’ safety week after week in a rapidly changing situation.

27488

The Socialist -our weekly paper- details workers’ fights and the need for trade union action.

During and after the coronavirus crisis there will be massive attacks on workers as the capitalist class seek to recuperate their losses and minimise any increased consciousness among workers. Events so far have only been a small test in terms of what fighting leadership is needed from trade unions as the core organisations to defend the working class.

The Socialist Party branches and union caucuses continue to meet online regularly, discussing political and workplace situations and organising for militant working class action.

We fight for socialism -for workers’ democratic control and management over the economy- and will push the case for a determined fight for socialist change within the trade unions. Only the working class finally taking control will end the endless battles with bosses that workers face even during a global pandemic!

JOIN US! – IT’S EASY TO GET INVOLVED!

The week government lies caught up with them

THE WEEK THAT GOVERNMENT LIES CAUGHT UP WITH THEM

  • If we’re to beat Covid 19, it can’t go on like this!
  • One of the worst death rates in the world.  
  • Testing doesn’t meet needs
  • PPE shortage letting down our health and social care workers
  • Care homes becoming death traps
  • Government then blame health workers for misusing PPE!!

This has been the week where much has been revealed. The lack of preparation for the virus, the weakened state of the NHS   due to austerity and privatisation for profit is broadly recognised by people. Many people of course want to get on with fighting the enemy at the door, Covid 19, rather than argue about things.

But failure of both our economic system and government has consequences, different responses have different outcomes.

There is still much for the British people to learn and absorb about the lack of preparation that has left us short of PPE, staff, ventilators and the rest – not least the ignoring of operation Cygnus in 2016 that warned we were unprepared for a pandemic.   But it’s also the week the government tried to shift the blame, and largely failed.

London Transport workers fighting private companies and TfL to secure health and safety

Postal workers’ anger over profits before health and safetyPostal workers’ anger over profits before health and safety

27440


 

BLAME THE POPULATION….NOT THE PREPARATION ?

From PPE, to ventilators, to testing, to delayed lockdown, to considering ‘Herd immunity’ (which would have led to 500,000 deaths) the government’s lack of preparation and slow reaction has hamstrung our reaction to Covid19. Now, even ‘The Times’ a Tory supporting paper, has joined the condemnation of the wasted months (in an astonishing attack). Faced with this the Government moved to shift the blame and shift our gaze, with a “Don’t look there, look here” policy.

It started with “blame the public” -get us all to blame each other re shopping or going out in public. It was classic divide and rule, but the reality was very different. Of course, social distancing is vital and that it came too late has allowed to virus to kill over 20,000 already (16,000 in hospitals, 4000 in care homes and community as of 20 April) **

Then it was footballers – note: not billionaires, or more ‘upper class’ entertainers.

Then the biggest mistake of the government, they tried to start blaming health and care workers for the lack of PPE. As health workers saw increased deaths amongst colleagues and feared going to work, that the government tried to blame them brought howls of outrage across the country.


 

OBEYING THE LOCKDOWN: You wouldn’t think it from government and media blaming and shaming, but the public response to social distancing has been remarkable. With rare exceptions, the lockdown has been well observed and community support for one another has soared. We’ve seen the best in people. Many have been surprised at how well people have recognised the rules. Especially young people, for whom misleading talk might have led them to believe they would not be affected.

That didn’t stop TV pictures of a couple walking a dog in the big spaces of the Peak District. Of one woman alone on a beach being moved by police, or of Central News last Friday showing pictures of (much reduced) traffic on the M42 asking ‘where are they going?’ Yet on the mile long section of road filmed, there were only 4 cars!

But, as government finger pointing at the public went against what most of us experienced, and even the Government had to admit “they were surprised at the public response to supporting lockdown” (BBC), they had to start ‘backing off’.

FOOTBALLERS: Matt Hancock pointed the finger at wealthy footballers not donating. There can be few of us sports lovers who welcome the huge salaries for the minority of super-successful footballers, but this attack was not made on absentee, Tax dodging billionaires, or the less working class elements of the entertainment industry and just revealed Tory dislike of working class kids doing well. But to their credit, footballers organised themselves to donate directly to health services and not hand money back to their often very wealthy owners. Again the government had to back off.

HEALTH WORKERS ‘MISUSING’ PPE. The government shot themselves in the foot here. Some Trusts were close to or actually running out of PPE over the weekend. Dr Rob Harwood chair of the BMA Consultants, said: We “should not expect people to expose themselves to potential risk to their lives during the course of their work. It’s a real disappointment to us that Government has been unable, even after a month, to address this progressively worsening shortage of PPE”.

Note from his comment that the situation is “worsening”. Ministers have tried to claim it was a distribution problem but it’s becoming clearer it’s a supply problem. Meanwhile they admit to 27 health workers dying from Covid, As of April 18, The Guardian says it knew of at least 58, the Times confirms this figure.

If we might advise the government: people are sick of this deflection and hiding. If there’s a shortage, say so. Don’t keep pretending there’s enough and blame shifting. Get on with putting it right! Stop debating contracts with private firms, and mobilise the relevant parts of British industry to get the stuff made.

To add to all this, is the horrible truth coming out about infections and deaths in care homes, the deaths of transport workers and while Mr Hancock claims cancer and other treatments should be carrying on, there has even been talk of up to 60,000 deaths from other illnesses that are not fully treated as hospitals are diverted to Covid treatment.


 

Does all this matter for the immediate future?   –   Simple answer ‘Yes’.

When government supporters say ‘keep politics out of it’ are they right?  –  Simple answer ‘No’.

As we all fight to win against Covid, we want the best ways to win. It is widely recognised now that the government squandered time despite the warnings from China and Italy. Sir Jeremy Farrar of the government’s own SAGE committee said ‘UK is likely to be one of the worst, if not the worst in Europe’ for deaths and infections.

Government supporters cry that ‘Politics should be taken out of it’, but the problem is two-fold.

First that past ‘politics’ got us ‘behind the curve’ in the first place, with decisions to run down pandemic preparation due to austerity, decisions to break up and fragment health and social care for their ‘market’ in health care that has led to uncoordinated procurement of materials and uncoordinated Laboratories, decisions to rely on ‘just in time production’ and to outsource production of vital materials to cheap labour economies. This has already cost thousands of lives.

Secondly, we want to win the war against the virus and we don’t think this lot are up to it. We had the wrong preparation and then the wrong response. The Times revealed government simply didn’t take this seriously enough. Fortunately for us all, the government dropped ‘herd immunity’ and started using the state to organise, but their love of relying on the market means they are still way behind catching up with the virus. Cabinet members who ‘hate the state’ are clearly unsuitable for the job.

These issues are biting government now and instead of spending time covering their backsides at press conferences, they need to get on with it and mobilise all resources to fight this virus.

27439

 

HOW TO GET OUT OF THIS?

The growth of the death rate appears to be levelling off but we are not out of the woods by a long way. The ‘plateau’ that they talk about looks like hundreds of deaths per day for a significant period. Without adequate testing any attempt to leave lockdown risks a deadly second wave and cycles of release and lockdown.

The only way out until a vaccine is available for all, is by testing, tracing isolating – hunting the virus down and keeping people away from it, and to stop it spreading in hospitals and care homes protecting our health, social care and other workers.

But with testing at only 20,000 per day when what’s needed is 500,000 per day, things don’t look good. That’s why there’s cabinet division on coming out of lockdown.

What is required is a huge mobilisation of our industry and our labour to provide a system of testing tracing and isolating. Something we simply aren’t seeing.

SOCIALISM

Against their will and to save capitalism amidst the greatest economic crisis since the 1930s, the capitalists and their parties have been forced to use massive state intervention. However the example of the nationalisation of the Banks in the crisis a decade ago shows they will bail out the bankers and wealthy shareholders at the expense of the working class.

An editorial in the recent issue of ‘the Socialist’ commented: “A genuine exit strategy – not just from the pandemic, but from the austerity, poverty and exploitation that the capitalist profit system generates – will only be possible in a fundamentally different kind of society.

“This would be based on public ownership of industry, services and finance, in which the planning that governments have been randomly groping towards in this crisis – to build the hospitals, secure essential equipment such as ventilators and masks, distribute food, etc – could be extended to the whole of the economy.

“Working-class people could then democratically decide and prioritise where the enormous wealth that already exists, and will be created in the future, should be spent.”

Join us!

 

**Breaking: April 21st Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveals that deaths are 40% higher than government figures.

 


Comments seen this week on social media…….

“Definition of an essential worker: Someone you treat like sh*t, until you realise you need them”

‘Britain in 2020. A 99 year old man has to haul himself round his garden to raise money for medical supplies while billionaires sit on private islands with more money than they can spend in a lifetime. And the worst part is people think this is normal. This country is fu*ked, absolutely fu*ked.’

‘Captain Tom should be praised, but while we praise the heroes, we must also hold the villains to account.’

‘By the way, what happened to the Chancellor’s ‘doing whatever is necessary’. Why is charity money needed then?’

If thousands of beds can be found for Nightingale hospitals, why couldn’t they be found in the past when the NHS was stretched to breaking point?

If thousands of beds can be found for Nightingale hospitals, why couldn’t they be found in the past when the NHS was stretched to breaking point?

When on so many occasions people were forced to wait in ambulances or trolleys?

Coronavirus response could create ‘very serious unintended consequences’ says the HSJ (Health Service Journal)

HSJ says ‘Non-coronavirus patients at serious risk due to huge focus on fighting virus’

‘National NHS leaders are to take action over growing fears that the “unintended consequences” of focusing so heavily on tackling covid-19 could do more harm than the virus, HSJ has learned.’ 

NHS England analysts have been tasked with identifying patients who may not have the virus but may be at risk of significant harm or death because they are missing vital appointments or not attending emergency departments, with both the service and public so focused on covid-19.

A senior NHS source was quoted “There could be some very serious unintended consequences. While there will be a lot of covid-19 fatalities, we could end up losing more ‘years of life’ because of fatalities relating to non-covid-19 health complications.

“What we don’t want to do is take our eye off the ball in terms of all the core business and all the other healthcare issues the NHS normally attends to.”  “People will be developing symptoms of serious but treatable diseases”

Unless urgent action is taken people suffering strokes, or from Cancer, Heart conditions and more could end up as part of a silent death toll.

img_6558

A member comments:   “What does the Catherine Armstrong case tell us?

Scotland’s chief medical officer was the public face of the TV campaign to get people to stay at home and then bobs off to her second home for two weekends!

The lockdown is being largely effective because of the responsible actions of millions of working people and the bravery of others. Yet, every day people are being shamed for being 10 yards apart in a park while the chief medical officer does this!

I’ve met no-one who isn’t shocked at the selfishness and stupidity. And few who aren’t angry at the ‘One rule for us, another rule for them’ mentality.

Doesn’t it echo the MP’s expenses scandal and many similar stories we’ve heard? Where expenses claims were beyond the outrageous. Where Ian Duncan Smith could proclaim ‘the end of something for nothing’ regarding Benefits and at the same time make expenses claims for a hair-cut? (What hair?)

Just how corrupt or out of touch are those who climb the greasy pole to the top of our system?

For a chief medical officer to tell people stuck in flats, often with kids and no gardens to go in, that they must stay at home while not only can she go to her first home’s considerable garden but buggers off to a second home ( – a pre-requisite it seems for our upwardly mobile upper professional class.)

How is it they can feel no pressure from the rest of us to be accountable or even considerate, never mind do their job properly?  Is it the breakdown of social solidarity following the “no such thing as society” mantra of Thatcherism? The mantra that meant MP’s could fiddle their expenses without a tinge of guilt? Or what else could make them feel no connect to others in society, no being bound by the same rules as the ‘rest of us’?

Whatever it is, we must fight to put an end to this hypocritical ‘I’m alright Jack’. There needs to be a huge democratic and accountability shake-up to end a situation where elected and appointed officials feel no connection to we ordinary millions. The ordinary millions without whom nothing would work anyway.

We should ensure that democratic and accountable bodies run our public services. Public representatives like MP’s should get the wage of an average skilled worker not way more. Stop the gravy train where people stand to be reps to fill their pockets instead of fighting to improve conditions for all. Then they can rise with the rest of us.”

Reports are emerging that MP’s are to get an extra £10,000 to work from home. This can’t be true, someone tell us it’s fake news….

Hypocrisy as Tories lecture us on selfishness and Branson seeks a bail out.

After years of telling us ‘there’s no such thing as society’, that we’ve ‘all got to look after number 1’, and of MP’s feeding in the trough and of taking lucrative executive positions in private companies, it’s a bit rich of Tory ministers to tell people not to be selfish!

And while they pick on predominantly working class footballers, demanding a pay cut, they don’t talk about the billionaires and super rich in society. Indeed one of them, Mr Branson is appealing for a public bailout for his company despite having a personal fortune that could cover those financial issues many times over.

And, while there’s talk of hoarding…What about £13 trillion hoarded in tax havens around the world? Money that could be used to improve economies and peoples’ lives across the world.

👉 If you agree, join us: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/main/join

 

Corona Crisis commentary latest 3rd April

MATT HANCOCK FRONTS UP

At least at yesterdays’ government press conference (Thursday 2nd April), Health Secretary Matt Hancock faced up to the governments’ failure to provide PPE and testing. Unlike previous government evaders, he answered some questions and made promises to dramatically improve provision. Let’s all hope he’s successful.

He also promised to write off NHS Trust debts –worth £13.5 billion – for debts read money Trusts couldn’t cut from their restricted budgets. It sure would have helped if the Conservatives had done this before instead of worshipping austerity.

Also, most interestingly Mr Hancock acknowledged that ‘Britain’s diagnostic industry starts from a very low base’….Why is that?

In an earlier article we carried by Dr Jon Dale, (Is there a cure on the Horizon?) he explained why this was the case. Essentially there is a lot less money going into diagnostics because there is less profit in it compared to producing medicines.

There is some amazing work being done by many companies to understand and seek cures or palliatives for this virus and no-one can blame a company having to work in a ‘Market system’ for needing to make a profit to survive. But what it reveals – yet again – is that the market cannot deal with human problems. Hence the huge government intervention needed in this crisis.

Health priorities cannot be left to the profit motive but must be decided by society for the interests of all.

See latest article from our journal Socialism Today – Another market system failure

If our health industries are to be improved they must be brought into public ownership and integrated and planned and alongside our NHS.

– What Jon Dale said: “Small biotech companies employing 20-30 scientists are rapidly developing faster, more accurate tests. But they may be too late for this pandemic.

– Private investment in these bio-tech companies between 2015-19 was 6 times less than in companies researching treatments where higher profits are hoped for. (One expert commenting on inadequate diagnostics) said it was “a market failure” that diagnostics were less valued than treatments.

– Large companies making diagnostic tests don’t invest in tests that may not be needed, they want guaranteed sales. A Socialist plan of production would combine laboratory research with modern purpose built factories, prepared for new infectious outbreaks.

– Public ownership and investment, not short term profit hunting, would save many lives.”

Tests for all now!

Nationalise production and research!

While we await a cure, we can cure the system that holds us back in the our fight against epidemics

27410