The National Health Service has a remarkable history.

In the aftermath of World War Two, with a war-ravaged economy, the world’s first universal health service was born.

The NHS has been on the frontline of the most serious pandemic in 100 years. Alongside millions of people across the UK, I have thanked the NHS, I have applauded but I know the health service is being starved of resources.

The lack of investment in the NHS did not start with Covid. Leading up to the pandemic, a decade of cuts had left the NHS struggling and understaffed, with 100,000 vacant posts.

Locally we have seen services cut, our walk-in centres have been run down, plans for a new hospital were cancelled despite which services were cut and not returned to Hartlepool hospital. I oppose these cuts but in Hartlepool they voted for and endorsed these cuts by electing the Town’s first Conservative MP.

This weekend, I will be supporting the NHS Day of Action, supporting the campaigns to improve patient safety, cut the covid backlog, keep the NHS public, end privatisation, and delivery pay justice for our frontline workers that have risked their lives to save others – including the Prime Minister.

A decade of austerity has led to real-terms pay cuts in the NHS. In some bands the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) found real-term pay cuts of up to 32%. Dr Gavan Conlon from London Economics told C4FactCheck that since 2010/11, nurse starting salaries are around 10% worse off than a decade ago.

I have no hesitation in supporting the RCN campaign for a 12.5% pay rise. This pay increase would simply restore nurses to the position they were when Labour left office.

I have seen the outrage. What about me? I work in care, retail or other covid frontline jobs, why shouldn’t we get a pay rise?

I agree.

Austerity is a political choice.

The decision to cut funding and resources, pay, pensions, terms and conditions is a political choice.

The removal of your workplace rights is a political choice.

As a country, we can decide to make different political choices if we want to.

How can we improve wages in care and retail? Join a union and support campaigns for collective sectoral bargaining. Collective bargaining empowers workers; our current system is purposely designed to divide and weaken workers.

I love the NHS. It has saved my life on more than one occasion. The universal system is a model we should be using for other services, most obviously, our care system.

A National Care System, providing free at the point of need personal and social care, should be our generation’s gift to society, in the same way, the NHS was a gift from the post-war era.

If the post-war Labour Government listened to the voices saying, it’s not possible, it would be too expensive, or we can’t afford it, the NHS would never have been born.

We face the same voices when we consider social care, but we cannot waiver from our principles and belief. The next time a politician praises NHS staff, ask them if they support an NHS pay rise, and if not, why?

The next a politician speaks about how they appreciate the NHS, ask them if they support using the NHS framework for a National Care System, if not, why?

On Monday 5th July we get to say Happy Birthday to the NHS. After 73 years, the best present we can give would be a National Care Service to work hand in hand with the NHS.

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