Loyal public sector workers are having to strike for decent pay and conditions. This is unfair, but it also indicates a weak economy.

Investing in public services is needed for our well-being and for the economy. Austerity is bad for both. Way back in 1942, Beveridge recognized that the country’s wealth depended upon having a healthy population.

Yet there has been long-standing underfunding of the NHS. In 2014 UK NHS funding was the 4th lowest out of 19 similar European Countries - a political decision as the UK NHS was funded from universal taxation. It was the dedication and struggles of health workers that maintained the good performance of the NHS.

Ham & High: Janet Shapiro says that investing in our public services is needed for our wellbeing and economyJanet Shapiro says that investing in our public services is needed for our wellbeing and economy (Image: HPAG)

Two years before the pandemic, John Lister of Health Campaigns Together warned us of safety concerns, informed by the November 2009 BMA report entitled London’s NHS on the Brink. Yet under austerity policies, essential increased funding was denied. Critics claim that with staffing and bed capacity at levels comparable to other European countries, patients would have fared better when the coronavirus hit us.

Increased NHS investment is still needed in the aftermath of the pandemic, but not granted at a realistic levels. It is obvious that Local Authorities must be better funded, especially as they are responsible for patients’ rehabilitation after discharge from hospital. Limited bed capacity and delays in discharge now result in queues for emergency critical care.

Failures of privatised rail contractors and recent strikes of transport indicate the importance of providing a reliable efficient transport infrastructure to keep the nation working. Also, even with technological advances in communications we still need a universal postal service. There are doubts whether a privatised Royal Mail will deliver and assure good services to the digitally poor. Certainly, its employees are not being treated fairly and the CWU has organised strikes.

These public sector workers are important to older people. We appreciate face to face service, such as manned ticket offices, guards on trains, the daily postman. We have not forgotten the loyal service of transport workers and health workers during the worst ravages of the pandemic, when many were facing a daily risk of infection.

Then, we were encouraged to clap each week in appreciation. Why are these same workers now denied fair wage settlements? It makes no sense!

Janet Shapiro on behalf of the Hornsey Pensioners Action Group.