The Guardian view on Rishi Sunak’s NHS plans: ramping up private medicine | Editorial

The Tories have not reversed pro-market reforms in healthcare but energised them

Last October, Rishi Sunak sat down beside Catherine Poole, a 77-year-old patient at Croydon University hospital, no doubt hoping for a breezy on-camera conversation. When Mr Sunak asked whether staff had looked after her “really nicely”, Ms Poole replied: “They always do. It’s a pity you don’t pay them more .” That sentiment seems to have hardened. Health workers in Britain began their largest strike on Monday and polls showed the public solidly behind them.

The disputes will eventually be settled, but patients will suffer more the longer they go on. Yet it seems that Mr Sunak’s government is in no mood to end the quarrel . That is why Monday’s strike, the biggest in the 75-year history of the NHS, largely affected English health services. Walkouts have been suspended in Scotland and Wales after new pay offers. Ministers need to face up to reality. The NHS in England is in crisis. This might lend weight to the argument that the system is in crying need of correction, yet the health service in England was just reorganised under the Health and Care Act 2022 so that the NHS could plan “integrated” services – reversing a decade of pro-market reforms.

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Britain is desperate for workers – but Sunak won’t admit immigration is the answer | Simon Jenkins

Post-Brexit, health and care employers, farmers and builders struggle to fill vacancies while ministers demonise those who could help

A sure sign of a happy country is the eagerness of foreigners to come to live there. One such state is Great Britain. Newcomers are a net benefit to a modern economy and should be welcomed accordingly. Thus, their compliment is returned.

Last year Britain’s ageing population was supplemented by a record net immigration of half a million people . After two years of pandemic retirements and EU departures under Brexit, this immigration came as a salvation to health and care employers, caterers, builders, truckers and farmers. Yet these businesses are still desperate for more. In England, care is short of 165,000 workers and health needs 130,000 , while half of UK building firms are short-staffed and a third of all UK firms say they lack a full complement of staff . Last month the chancellor duly issued a plea for 300,000 over-50s who retired after lockdown to return to work to fill 1.19m vacancies . It was as if the nation faced defeat and was calling its veterans back into service.

Simon Jenkins is a Guardian columnist

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