20 March 2020
We are facing the biggest public health crisis of a generation. To make matters worse, decades of underfunding coupled with privatisation has already brought our NHS to its knees.
The government must now do everything in its power to fully equip our health service and protect NHS workers in the fight against coronavirus.
But the government’s response so far? Rent 8,000 hospital beds from the private sector at a cost of £2.4 million per day. Millions upon millions of pounds of public money that will end up lining the pockets of company shareholders. At a time of national crisis, this isn’t just a staggering waste of money. It’s a moral outrage.
Our government has the power to take private health providers and their facilities into public ownership, to ensure the NHS has the beds it needs as COVID-19 continues to spread. The Spanish government has already successfully requisitioned all private healthcare providers and materials, such as face masks and COVID-19 tests. The UK simply cannot afford to do otherwise.
Right now, and over the months to come, we will need every hospital bed that we can get. Every bed is another life potentially saved. There are approximately 8,000 beds in private hospitals in the UK - beds that could be used to tackle the crisis.
But this goes beyond beds. In this hour of urgent need, we cannot have resources, equipment, supplies, and staff directed towards making a quick buck. They must be requisitioned in the public interest. While the NHS is having to turn away patients who are presenting clear symptoms untested, Harley Street clinic has sold 2,000 tests to symptomless celebrities and the wealthy. Their lives are not worth more than the lives of our neighbours, relatives and friends. It is clearer than ever that we must put people before profit and we can’t rely on the private sector to do right by the public.
We’re not alone in calling for urgent action in response to the Coronavirus crisis; equipping the NHS with the resources that it needs is one of several crucial measures that the government must take. Here are what other health care and community campaigns are demanding:
Keep Our NHS Public has outlined 6 key demands from NHS staff:
- COVID-19 testing and personal protective equipment (PPE) must be available for all NHS and social care staff now
- Those relying on social care (or ‘Direct Payments’) must be given immediate support if carers go sick
- NHS support staff (including those outsourced) must receive at least living wage, paid sick leave for illness or self-isolation and an increase in statutory sick pay
- Bring private health resources into public service without compensation to fight COVID-19 and aid NHS response
- Make all information that the Government is basing its strategy on wholly available for public scrutiny
- An immediate end to legislation enforcing eligibility checks and charging in the NHS, including those related to residency status or national origin, allowing all patients to use the NHS without fear
Medact is calling for a COVID-19 bill that radically reimagines public health to respond to this crisis, including the need for secure housing and income, an end to the hostile environment, and cooperation across borders.
Momentum has announced plans to push the government to force pharmaceutical companies to research and produce whatever the NHS needs at cost price, make sure the NHS is truly universal by ending the practise of charging migrants, and uphold total transparency with the public. They will also be repurposing their My Campaign Map tool used to give people information on nearby grassroots support initiatives.
GMB has a petition of nearly 20,000 signatures calling for the requisition of private hospital beds.
Now is the time to fight for these demands, from bedrooms and living rooms across the country, for the most vulnerable, for those making impossible choices in precarious situations, for us all.
We will get through this crisis if our government takes urgent action to protect people over profit.
Image credit: Estonian Presidency - Creative Commons