Patrick Smith’s speech to the Labour Party – save our NHS.


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This is text from Hull North delegate Pat Smith’s speech proposing the composite motion on the NHS at Labour Party conference. It got a standing ovation, and the motion passed unanimously. But that does not alter the fact that the fight is just beginning.

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Conference, the National Health Service is now in critical condition.

Service slashed back, departments shut down, hospitals and trusts on the brink of collapse; £20 billion in cuts now, £50 billion by 2019. Billions upon billions handed over to private companies.

We’ve already seen one NHS hospital privatised; we’re now seeing Serco, Care UK, and Circle attempt to get their hands on another.

Since 2001, private health companies who stand to make a killing from the NHS gave the Tories and the Lib Dems £16 million.

We’re seeing the Tories selling the NHS off to their mates, but it’s not just driven by self interest; it’s ideological. They hate what the NHS represents: the socialist principle of an equal right to life and health, regardless of your ability to pay.

The NHS is the greatest victory of the British labour movement so far. It is the greatest triumph of the British working class. It is the greatest advance this country has ever made in putting the interests of people before the interests of profit.

And that, conference, is why Tory Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt told us that the NHS would be better off broken up.

In his speech yesterday Ed Milliband made the first step in pledging to repeal the Health and Social Care Act, but we need to go further.

We can only save the NHS by fighting for a radical vision of our own, a vision based on the principles of the health service founded by Nye Bevan: free, comprehensive healthcare, as a right for all: in a publicly owned, publicly funded, and publicly accountable system.

For the NHS workers whose wages and pensions are being decimated, for nurses and doctors overworked to the point of collapse, and for the communities seeing their health service disappear, the question is simply this: who will save the NHS? If we answer that question then Labour will win the next election by a landslide.

For decades, ‘reorganisations’ meant runaway bureaucracy and privatisation at the expense of patient care. What we want is not top-down; it’s not bureaucratic: it is comprehensive reorganisation, from the bottom up to the top, to restore the NHS as a public service providing quality care for all.

Conference, the money is there. We can start by scrapping the internal market, an obscenely wasteful and inefficient system. When the NHS was an integrated service, administration costs were just 6 percent. When the Tories brought in the internal market they rocketed to 15 percent. Now health economists are telling us that could rise by up to 50 percent.

We were right to scrap the internal market in ’97, and wrong to reintroduce it under another name. We should say that openly, put forward a bold alternative, and voters will respond. They’ll also respond if we end the madness that is PFI and outsourcing. We now know that the 717 PFI projects have a value of only £54 billion, but they have cost us £301 billion! We have to say: no more PFI.

And conference, don’t let anybody tell you there is not enough money. There is plenty of money in our society to pay for the National Health Service.

Since 2009, the richest thousand people in Britain increased their wealth 60% to 414 billion pounds.

We found 1.2 trillion pounds to bail out the banks.

And British businesses are sat on a cash mountain of £750 billion of profit which they are refusing to invest.

Conference, it comes down to this: crazy, out of control luxury for the super rich, or a future for our National Health Service. The Tories have their answer, and we need to have ours.

Millions of working-class people are looking to the Labour Party to take a stand on the NHS, and we cannot let them down…

Nye Bevan said: “The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it”.

Conference, we must be those people. We must reach out to our communities, our health workers, and our trade unions. So that in the future, we can look our children in the eyes and tell them: we were the ones who fought. Conference, I move.

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