Michael Rosen, the poet and children’s writer and one of the best-known Covid survivors, is backing a campaign for a massive cash injection into the NHS and social care.
The New Deal for the NHS, organised by the patient-led pressure group Just Treatment, says the pandemic has exposed the need for “transformative investment” of £33bn a year in the NHS or 1.5% of GDP.
In foreword to a pamphlet setting out the plan, Rosen, who spent 48 days in intensive care with Covid, argues that the injection of emergency funding by the government in the economy in the last year shows that such investment is possible through the creation of government bonds.
He writes: “If we’ve learned anything from the last year, it’s that the government has levers which can literally ‘create money’.”
Rosen, who said the NHS saved his life many times over, added: “We’re entitled to say, ‘If you can raise cash like that for an emergency, why not raise it for the service that looks after us from cradle to the grave. We are the country. Without us, there is no country. What could be more important?’”
He pointed out the intensive ward where he was treated had over twice as many patients in it than could reasonably and safely be cared for. “Our NHS desperately needs more support – and needs us to fight for it,” he wrote.
The pamphlet says: “A decade of underfunding has seen plummeting standards of care and huge increases in pressure on NHS staff who are leaving their jobs in record numbers. We cannot sustain and improve the health service with these austerity budgets … We must increase health spend by 1.5% of GDP to match France and Germany so we can also match or surpass their numbers of health workers, beds and scanners.”
It concedes that the £33bn sounds like a lot, “but when £22bn has been wasted on a completely ineffective Covid test and trace programme it makes the cost of a health system that can properly care for us when we need it seem reasonable.”
It also calls for a “democratic revolution” in the NHS to give patients and frontline staff decision making power, and end to corporate profiteering from health. And it demands a shift in focus to tackle the root causes of health inequalities, with big investment to tackle poor housing, and pollution and inadequate social care.
And the campaigns backs calls for an immediate public inquiry into the handling of the pandemic. It says this “must look at the errors in decision making during the crisis – but also the long term causes of vulnerability including NHS funding, dismantling of public health infrastructure and the profit-centred pharmaceutical innovation model”.