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The Guardian view on Rishi Sunak’s NHS plans: ramping up private medicine | Editorial

The Tories have not reversed pro-market reforms in healthcare but energised them

Last October, Rishi Sunak sat down beside Catherine Poole, a 77-year-old patient at Croydon University hospital, no doubt hoping for a breezy on-camera conversation. When Mr Sunak asked whether staff had looked after her “really nicely”, Ms Poole replied: “They always do. It’s a pity you don’t pay them more.” That sentiment seems to have hardened. Health workers in Britain began their largest strike on Monday and polls showed the public solidly behind them.

The disputes will eventually be settled, but patients will suffer more the longer they go on. Yet it seems that Mr Sunak’s government is in no mood to end the quarrel. That is why Monday’s strike, the biggest in the 75-year history of the NHS, largely affected English health services. Walkouts have been suspended in Scotland and Wales after new pay offers. Ministers need to face up to reality. The NHS in England is in crisis. This might lend weight to the argument that the system is in crying need of correction, yet the health service in England was just reorganised under the Health and Care Act 2022 so that the NHS could plan “integrated” services – reversing a decade of pro-market reforms.

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