It was a huge honour as always to address UNISON health conference this morning. As the biggest health union in the country, this is always a massive event for our union – but never more so than in the 70th year of our National Health Service.
For me, as general secretary of UNISON, it is the greatest achievement of our movement – the greatest example of socialism in action, and of the basic decency and fairness of our labour movement.
It has lasted 70 years, a testament to the work of those who work in it and fight to defend it. And on 30 June, our union will take to the streets with banners and balloons lifted high to celebrate the first seven decades of our NHS and to defend the NHS for future generations to come.
Because the values and principles espoused by Bevan all those decades ago still ring true today, and it falls to us to keep them alive.
I will always love our NHS. NHS workers saved my life – a debt I can never repay.
That is why I will always be a champion of NHS values and NHS people, who inspire me and drive me every day.
Our fight is not just to keep the NHS strong, but to build on what makes it great and make it greater still. We face so many challenges – lack of resources, growing waiting lists, reorganisation after reorganisation, privatisation, fragmentation and marketisation. All of these place more stress on the NHS’s most valuable resource – its staff.
We face the greatest fight in the history of our NHS, to save its future. We have to keep fighting for the funding our health service needs. We have to roll-back privatisation, end the austerity era and fight with all our might against the rise of subsidiary companies – the latest front used by those who seek to privatise our NHS.
As your general secretary, I always will always fight for the NHS because NHS workers fought for me – they never gave up. As UNISON general sSecretary, neither will I.