DEAR editor, Sunday 5th July was the 72nd anniversary of the NHS. It was created in the aftermath of World War II - a conflict that saw 67,100 British civilians killed – to create something better for us all.

In the UK the number of “excess deaths” since the UK went into coronavirus lockdown is frightening.

As of the 28th May 2020, more than 63,000 people have died, than died on average in recent years (1).

During the COVID-19 crisis, NHS and Social Care workers (as well as many other public service workers) have been on the frontline.

This is also a critical moment when the systemic inequalities in our society are starker than ever. We urgently need to address the reasons why mortality rates from COVID-19 in the most deprived areas were more than double the least deprived areas.

That death rates from COVID-19 have been substantially higher among people with Black and Asian ethnicity should prompt profound reflection and change.

Since 2010 the NHS has suffered its worst funding ever squeeze. It is expected the shortfall will be £26 billion by the end of 2020/21. Even before the pandemic, waiting lists were rising and already there had been an estimated 120,000 excess deaths as a result of the cuts since 2010 (2).

When we emerge from this deadly crisis, the NHS deserves better.

We all deserve better. Here are some of our demands that make up the Keep Our NHS Public ‘2020 vision’ for the NHS:

There are currently 40,000 nurse vacancies in England alone, and it is predicted the NHS will have a staffing shortfall of 250,000 by 2030.

Nursing and allied health professional student numbers have drastically fallen since the removal of nursing bursary as financial support.

We demand Proper pay and respect for all NHS and care staff.

We demand the government rebuild and properly fund the NHS.

The threats to the NHS from a post-Brexit trade deal are similar to the threats from previous trade deals, like TTIP (3). We demand the NHS is kept out of all Trade Deals.

Recently introduced immigration checks, data sharing, and charges before NHS treatment are deeply harmful and an attack on the basic principles of the NHS.

The hostile environment creates fear that discourages people from seeking medical attention – worsening illnesses. Many lives have been put at risk and great hardship caused. We believe that access to treatment should be free at the point of use for all. We demand the hostile environment and charges to access the NHS are ended.

Finally, privatisation of the NHS must be reversed. We demand Health and Social Care back in public hands.

James Beecher

On behalf of Keep Gloucestershire’s NHS Public, Stroud Against the Cuts