The United Kingdom is currently facing a wave of social unrest in various public sectors. One of the ongoing social disputes, is that between the government and the nursing staff of the National Health Service (NHS). Amid the rising cost of living, the government’s proposed wage increase for nurses is lower than inflation. Moreover, the government appears totally unwilling to negotiate on this. The resulting discontent has driven nurses and the wider sector of government-funded medical services to take exceptional social action. In December, there was a strike on a number of days and between certain hours. In view of the government’s inflexible stance, more actions by the British medical staff are already expected in the first month of 2023.
It is noticeable that the mainstream press in the country can hardly understand the legitimate demands of the striking nurses. Reporting tends to emphasize the constantly repeated government position that the actions of medical personnel endanger civilian lives and that the viability of the National Health Service is undermined by social demands. However, it is the obscene profits of the pharmaceutical industry (‘Big Pharma’), which strangle the NHS, not the striking nurses.
Between 2011 and 2017, the cost of medicines for the NHS in England increased from 13 billion pounds to 17.4 billion pounds – an increase of 5% each year. In 2020, it was already 20.9 billion pounds. Nevertheless, leaked documents show that the UK Government is currently considering trade deals that would further drive up these costs by requiring the NHS to purchase pharmaceutical monopolies rather than generic drugs.
The US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer posted a profit of $ 21 billion last year. With that amount, the nurses’ wage bill in the UK could be financed twice-while also generating more income, through taxes and expenses, than company profits. This should put the demands of the nursing staff in perspective. It’s not the striking health workers who are keeping the NHS at bay – it’s the corporate urge to squeeze and suck.
Ending Global Medical apartheid also requires ending pharmaceutical monopolies. Saving the NHS requires this too. These monopolies consume public money for the development of medicines and then iron out money again by selling those same medicines to the public at high prices.