The Voice From The Back Column from the February 2015 issue of the Socialist Standard
The Scottish National Party claims that Scotland is a more equitable society than the rest of Britain but it too has a completely unequal society. 'Holyrood's health and sport committee has completed an inquiry into health inequalities which mean that a boy born today in some affluent areas can expect to live 28 years longer than if he had been born eight miles away' (Times, 5 January). Not only do the rich live more rewarding lives they even live longer.
A Depressing Society
Capitalism with its threat of unemployment, rent arrears or mortgage payments is a depressing society. Quite how depressing is shown by the latest figures from the Health and Social Care Information Society about the use of antidepressants. 'Almost one in ten people in Britain is taking antidepressants with GP prescriptions for them almost doubling in ten years. Doctors last year issued 55 million prescriptions for pills such as Prozac,up from 50 million the year before and nearly twice the 2004 amount' (Times, 6 January). Last year £280 million was spent on the drugs.
An Eleven Hour Wait
The volume of misery for NHS patients continues, but the suffering in some cases is difficult to comprehend: 'a frail 81-year-old woman lay on the floor for 11 hours overnight before an ambulance arrived. Her son David Cunningham said his sister called 999 at 9.07pm on Monday, then rang back several times for updates. He said the family were told it was going to be two hours, then four hours, then six hours. Mr Cunningham, 56, said he heard that ambulances carrying patients were "stacked up" at the hospital' (Daily Express, 5 January). A spokesman for South Central ambulance service apologised and blamed ‘the sheer volume of calls’.
2000 Avoidable Deaths
Air pollution in Scotland's towns and cities has created a public health crisis, according to environmental campaigners. The claim by Friends of the Earth Scotland came after an analysis of official data for two toxic pollutants. The group said the figures showed pollution levels were continuing to break Scottish and European limits. 'Air pollution in Scotland's towns and cities is creating a public health crisis, according to environmental campaigners. High levels of NO2 [nitrogen oxide] are linked to asthma and other respiratory problems . . . Last April, Health Protection Scotland said air pollution may have been responsible for 2,000 deaths in Scotland in a single year' (BBC News, 11 January). Inside capitalism business is much more important than curbing pollution.
The sharp rise in the number of procedures hospitals are at present postponing has prompted the leader of Britain's surgeons to warn that patients affected will suffer ‘considerable distress’. 'Unprecedented demand has led to a third more elective (planned) operations being cancelled in England this winter than last year, latest figures show. A total of 12,345 were called off at short notice between 3 November and 4 January, a rise of 32% on the 9,320 seen in the same period in the winter of 2013-14' (Observer, 11 January). Cancellations included some 3,771 procedures such as hernia repairs and hip or knee replacements in the three weeks before and during the festive season.
Cuts In Cancer Treatment
Health chiefs have announced that twenty-five different cancer treatments will no longer be funded by the NHS in England. 'NHS England announced the step after it emerged the £280m Cancer Drugs Fund - for drugs not routinely available –was to go £100m over budget in 2014/15. Some drugs will be removed and others restricted –a move charities say could leave some without crucial treatments' (BBC News, 12 January). Another example of government cuts coming before essential treatment for the working class.
Class Room Crisis
Council leaders warn that the cost of creating places for the 880,000 extra pupils expected in England by 2023 could push schools to breaking point. 'The Local Government Association fears the demand for school places could soon reach a tipping point with no more space or money to extend schools. The LGA wants the government to fully fund the cost of all the extra places, calculated to run to £12bn' (BBC News, 13 January). Official government figures, published last year, project that by 2023 there will be a total of 8,022,000 pupils in England's schools – up from 7,143,000 in the current academic year. This increase has no budget to deal with the problem.