Time to demand a radical transformation for health justice

Medact members marching in London at the TUC national Cost of Living Demonstration, 18th June 2022

With Sir Keir Starmer officially appointed as the new Prime Minister, change is in the air. A new government, after many years under one party, offers hope and opportunity – a chance to win radical change for health justice.

But we have our work cut out for us.

Our manifesto analysis made it clear: Labour does not support the vast majority of essential, transformational policies the Medact movement has championed for years. Instead the new government threatens more inaction, regressive proposals and status-quo thinking that will not dig us out of the multiple crises we face.

But we will keep fighting, and keep resisting. Now is the time to band together and push this government into taking real, radical action – action that could enable everyone across our divided society to thrive.

To take hold of this opportunity and win radical change, we need a strong and powerful health-worker movement that can push for the policies we need from the ground up.

Labour has flip-flopped on commitments on climate change – perhaps the greatest threat to health of our time. We welcome the party’s manifesto commitment to reach a zero-carbon energy system by 2030, and we will hold them to it, fighting to make sure this government guarantees an end to the use of deadly fossil fuels. And it must do this with justice in mind, ending the crisis of fuel poverty, and ensuring green, high-quality jobs for workers in the transition.

The road to a zero-carbon economy requires quality homes for all through a mass retrofitting programme – key to addressing the housing and health crisis. We would also see the Labour government secure at least 3 million more council homes built, while reforming the right to buy and protecting renters in the private sector against profiteering landlords. 

The NHS was founded under a Labour government, and has drifted far from its founding principles of free healthcare for all. Sadly, this government’s manifesto made no mention of ending the racist regime of charging migrants for NHS care, nor did it pledge to scrap the Immigration Health Surcharge. Instead the party has shamefully stoked the flame of anti-migrant rhetoric in this election. We will continue to campaign for an end to the hostile environment, and for a truly universal NHS.

A vision of such an NHS would not be realised without reversing over a decade of austerity that has decimated funding for our services, and meant poverty pay for many health workers. Yet Labour’s manifesto was bereft of concrete commitments to restore the funding our health services needs. We hope to see decisive pledges to restore spending, including on pay, and an end to the creeping, inefficient privatisation of the NHS that takes power away from our public. 

Years of successive Conservative governments have seen deeply harmful measures introduced in the name of ‘security’ that have infringed on people’s fundamental rights, including the Prevent duty and repressive protest laws. But far from standing up for justice, rather than tackling the systemic roots of crime and violence, Labour stood for increased police powers and more bobbys on the beat. We will continue campaigning to end the racist Prevent programme, and to guarantee the right to protest, as long as these policies threaten democracy.

Since Medact’s inception, we have stood for the abolition of nuclear weapons. It pains us to see another government with an ‘absolute’ commitment to Trident, the UK’s so-called nuclear ‘deterrent’. We will push for this government to see reason, that there is no cure for nuclear annihilation, and for the UK to join the hundreds of nations committed to ending this apocalyptic threat to humanity by signing the TPNW.

Finally, we are glad that the new government pledges to pursue a ceasefire to Israel’s genocide in Gaza, ongoing now for over eight months. But this must be backed up with action, which means ending complicity, ending the sale of arms to Israel, and further sanctions to apply the pressure required to stop the slaughter.

We have our work cut out for us, but we won’t lose sight of the hope that change brings. When we stand together, we are strong. And we can’t wait to keep organising with you, to keep holding power to account, and to win radical transformations towards health justice!