If it wins the next general election in the UK, Keir Starmer’s Labour Party could try to fix the damage inflicted on the National Health Service by years of Tory austerity. But Labour seems set on further privatizing the NHS.
Everywhere you look in the health service, the signs of thirteen years of austerity and willful Tory neglect are apparent. The Tories have, throughout their time in government, allowed the National Health Service (NHS) to go to rack and ruin, sending staff morale crashing through the floor and putting patients’ lives at risk.
The waiting list for surgery or specialist clinical care — partly a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic but exacerbated by years of chronic underfunding — stands at a record high of 7.22 million. Millions of patients, meanwhile, are struggling to get general practitioner (GP) appointments due to the immense pressures on NHS primary care.
Ambulance waiting times are alarmingly long: in December, response times in England were the worst on record, while the number of patients waiting twelve hours or more to be admitted to accidents and emergency department (A&E) also hit a new all-time high. NHS dentistry, in addition, is in a state of almost-total collapse.
Both opinion polls and the recent local elections in England indicate that the Tories are on track to lose the next general election. While the differences between Keir Starmer’s Labour and Rishi Sunak’s Conservatives are narrowing all the time, it might at least be expected that the Labour Party would repair the worst of the damage done since 2010. The NHS remains the great survivor of postwar social democracy. But statements from the Labour front bench suggest otherwise.