A Pandemic of Privatisation

Never let a crisis go to waste. NHS privatisation has been on fast-forward since the Covid-19 pandemic began last March.

NHS spending on private services doubled between 2010 and 2019. Since then, the Tories have handed out crony-capitalist contracts to private firms for PPE and test-and-trace, offered private hospitals £10 billion over four years to deal with the NHS backlog, and introduced a new white paper aimed at hard-wiring private provision into local services.

A decade of cuts and privatisation had stripped the NHS of spare capacity. Despite repeated warnings, resources for dealing with a pandemic were cut to the bone. When it struck, Tory negligence and incompetence gave us a ‘world-beating’ death toll – what British Medical Journal editor Kamran Abbasi called ‘social murder’.

The pandemic has now brought the NHS to breaking-point. The disease has not been eliminated. A third surge is possible. New, more transmissible, more vaccine-resistant variants may emerge. No-one knows how long vaccine protection will last. An estimated one in ten of those infected may develop long Covid.

The NHS waiting list now stands at five million people. People struggle to get GP appointments and referrals. Operations are delayed by years. The service is crippled by staff shortages, including 40,000 nursing vacancies. NHS workers are exhausted, stressed-out, bullied, and likely to resign in droves.

The Tory response? A pay cut for health workers, no additional funding, and fast-track ‘Americanisation’.

Meantime, world-wide, the pandemic continues to rage, and experts say the next pandemic is only a matter of time. But bunker nationalism and corporate profiteering block effective action – to waive patents, ramp up vaccination roll-out, and create publicly funded, community-based global health infrastructure.

And of course, nothing is done about the root cause of pandemics. Corporate agribusiness continues to destroy forests and farms, create monocultures, and breed new diseases.

We urgently need the following:

  • An end to all NHS privatisation. All public money should be spent on public provision.

  • A huge increase in NHS funding to expand capacity. A big pay rise for all NHS staff.

  • An end to vaccine nationalism. The patents on Covid-19 vaccines should be waived. A global health emergency programme.

  • An end to the control of food production by agribusiness. The land should be controlled and worked by local people for local use.


On 3 July join a NHS 73rd Anniversary protest for patient safety, pay justice and an end to privatisation near you.

Zero covid has produced a leaflet for distribution on the protests. Down the leaflet here.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons 4.0 License.

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