The independent London newspaper

Let’s compare Jeremy with Jeremy

12 July, 2019

In 2009, Jeremy Corbyn co-founded the Defend the Whittington Hospital Coalition

• ONCE again Jeremy Corbyn is the subject of vile attacks. Jeremy Hunt accused him of “opening the door to anti-Semitism”. Hunt, and others, have made a cheap, untrue and insensitive assertion against Corbyn.

I have known Corbyn for over 30 years. He has always supported the Jewish community in Islington, of which I am a part, and has always stood up against anti-Semitism and racism. His credentials as a respectable and respected leader far outweigh those of Hunt.

Unlike Hunt, Corbyn has always stood up for our NHS. In 2009, he co-founded the Defend the Whittington Hospital Coalition when the hospital was facing the loss of its accident and emergency department.

We won that campaign and went on to win successful campaigns against some of the negative impacts of Conservative health policy, as carried out by Hunt.

Government underfunding of NHS development projects has brought private companies into the NHS. Corbyn played a significant role in helping to stop this happening at our hospital and has said that, if elected as PM, he will stop all privatisation in the NHS.

Meanwhile, it is astounding to hear Hunt boasting of his success as health secretary when, in fact, he left our NHS in tatters, with much of it privatised.

Since 2010, the NHS has suffered its worst funding reduction, and it is expected that the shortfall will rise to £26billion by the end of 2120/21.

Waiting lists across the board are rising, and according to Watkins et al in the British Medical Journal, there has been an estimated 120,000 excess deaths as a result of the cuts in health and social care.

Private companies are receiving a massive increase in payments for social care – with Virgin Care being permitted to grab £1billion worth of NHS contracts.

The Naylor Report, which was published and implemented under Hunt’s watch, means that if hospitals need to update their estates, they have to sell their assets, rather than get government funding to do so.

Meanwhile, hospitals face a massive £6billion backlog in maintenance and are now falling apart, with sewage actually leaking on to wards, ceilings collapsing and lifts broken. Corbyn has promised to bring the NHS back to public ownership and to being publicly run.

Hunt proclaims to be proud of winning the dispute against the junior doctors, after the first all-out strikes in medical history leaving them with unfair and unsafe contracts, requiring them to work impossible hours on low pay. These atrocious working conditions mean there are over 100,000 unfilled doctor vacancies.

The NHS is dependent on overtime, because there are simply not enough medical staff. Recently consultants are having to work to contracted hours, and hence more operations are being cancelled, because there are flaws in their pension and tax arrangements, set up under Hunt’s government.

There is an increasingly dire shortage of nursing staff, worsened by Hunt’s removal of the bursaries for under- and post-graduate nursing staff and to the seven-year pay freeze for public sector workers.

Hunt’s government underfunding of health has seen A&E departments close, and hospitals with A&Es finding it increasingly hard to meet targets. Waiting times have soared, from ambulance call-outs to appointments for cancer care.

Hunt has implemented the policy towards migrants’ health care – in process at the Whittington Hospital – where all non-EU citizens have to pay, albeit after that care has been provided.

If the payment is not forthcoming they will be reported to the home office. This is not only a discriminatory policy, it also is the thin end of the wedge of paying for what should be free health care.

Corbyn has always spoken up for mental health. One of the first appointments that he made to his shadow cabinet was to create a role for a shadow minister for mental health. The underfunding of the NHS since 2010 has meant that mental health services took a disproportionate cut.

In the mental health trust in Camden and Islington, an area of one of the highest mental health need, 100 beds were closed. And this has been happening across the country and we now have the diabolical situation where there is not one spare bed.

Things have also been getting increasingly worse in Children and Adoles­cent Mental Health. By 2017 one-third of children’s mental health services were either downsized or closed.

At the same time children and adolescent mental health needs are increasing. Frequently children are sent hundreds of miles from their parents to get in-patient care.

Much of these increasing mental health problems arise due to the impact of the austerity programmes that Hunt and his government have been deliberately implementing.

These cuts have increased stress, anxiety and depression. How can we believe what Hunt proclaims when his record, of which he is so proud, has actually been so destruc­tive to health and wellbeing?

Do Corbyn’s accusers have another agenda? Perhaps they are terrified of a country that meets the needs of the many, not just the few.

Chair of Defend the Whittington Hospital Coalition
(personal capacity)


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