The coronavirus pandemic has thrown into the spotlight the dangerous underfunding of the NHS, which has left gaps that charity organisations have been desperately attempting to fill.
For example, NHS Charities Together, an organisation of 230 NHS charities, claims that £83.8 million has already been raised in an urgent appeal to fund the COVID-19 response. Outside of times of pandemic, this organisation alone donates £1 million daily.
Workers are paying
Specific cases of individual fundraising have been subject to extensive publicity and media hype. 100-year-old Captain Tom Moore, for example, walked 100 lengths of his garden to raise money for the NHS, attracting over £32 million in donations as a result. Various other fundraising campaigns and donation links have popped up across the internet.
Captain Tom Moore dreamed about raising £1,000 by walking around his garden 100 times, but in fact he raised $40m & everyone in the world wanted to be a part of his idea! pic.twitter.com/C15wFbZpwo— Ambassador Johnson (@USAmbUK) May 7, 2020
One such campaign was ironically hosted through Virgin Money Giving, a charity organisation run by Richard Branson’s Virgin Group. These are the same vultures who received an undisclosed settlement in 2017 after threatening to sue the NHS. The total donated to the NHS so far is, as a result, unclear.
All of this is part of a quest to ‘protect our NHS’ by filling the vacuum of healthcare spending that has been left by decades of Tory cuts. This is certainly an admirable undertaking on the part of ordinary working people, who have displayed enormous solidarity with the NHS workers fighting on the frontline against this pandemic without adequate protection.
However, it should not be for the working class, already under immense strain and financial pressure as a result of COVID-19, to shell out for the NHS’ survival whilst the tax-avoiding billionaires, bankers, and bosses are let off the hook.
It is the impact of a decade of chronic underfunding and privatisation as a result of Tory austerity that has left the NHS completely unprepared to deal with a pandemic of this scale.
Publicly owned and worker run
Charity can help paper over the cracks and slightly mitigate the impact of cuts to the NHS, but it won’t eradicate them – or the logic of a capitalist system in crisis that necessitates them.
Charity under capitalism is not the answer. We cannot rely on a healthcare system that depends on the charity of working class people, who are already at breaking point, to maintain it.
Neither can we rely on the rich to kindly provide the money that is necessary. Not simply because of the character of these people, but because the logic of the capitalist system demands that they invest in order to make profit, or otherwise face being outcompeted by their rivals.
Breaking with the entire system and fighting for socialism is the only solution. We must demand the reinstatement of the NHS as a fully funded, publicly owned, and publicly accountable service, to be democratically run by workers as part of a planned economy.