This article is part of the NCAFC Women & Non-Binary zine being distributed at this week’s NUS Women’s Conference. You can find the whole zine here.
By Lina Nass
What the Tory government is doing to our NHS can be conveniently summarised by this quote from one of the catchiest protest songs of the last year: “Jeopardising patients welfare to push through private health care.” The government is cutting money in every areas of the NHS.
We have to keep two things in mind. Firstly the cuts are not the fault of the hospital staff, who often work in horrendous conditions to save patients lives but the Tory government has taken deliberate and calculated steps towards dismantling the NHS services. Secondly, it is women who are affected by these cuts more than men – and working-class, disabled and migrant women even more so. Austerity hits women the hardest and the NHS is just another sad example.
It’s not just obvious incidents like the 20 million pounds cuts to domestic violence services over three years, but maternity clinics and mental health services have been getting less and less money and the worst is yet to come. Last year, the Tories took on junior doctors with contracts that had them working more hours for less money and student nurses by cutting their bursaries – as a result, applications for nursing degrees dropped by 23% – in times where we desperately need more nurses. The government wants to close hospitals and centralise certain vital services like A&E departments.
The NHS is the biggest employer in the UK, 80% of its workers are women, and BAME people (especially women) are overrepresented. It is women who predominantly work zero-hour contracts, are underpaid and chronically overworked. But it’s not just the workers who suffer – there are endless newspaper articles reporting how hospitals can’t guarantee patient safety and pictures of patients sleeping in overfilled corridors or aren’t even given any treatment. When hospitals close and health care is being privatised and thus made unaffordable for large section so society, caring responsibilities will have to be taken over by families – also read as: predominantly women.
What we, as as feminists and socialists have to do now is fight back – join the hospital workers, join organisations like Sister Uncut who take direct action against those cuts and join demonstrations like #OurNHS where three weeks ago tens of thousands of people marched on Parliament. Until we all stand together and recognise how these cuts affect the most disenfranchised in our society, the Tories won’t stop.