Thousands of protesters for the NHS took to the streets in towns and cities across Britain today.
The day of action, called by the TUC, united health workers, patients and members of the public in opposition to privatisation and the wave of cuts hitting hospitals and primary care trusts.
Around a thousand people demonstrated in both Birmingham and Sheffield while protests joined by several hundred people took place in many parts of London, and in Bristol, Manchester and Preston.
But the biggest demonstration of the day was in Enfield, north London, where the Chase Farm district general hospital is treated with “downgrading”. Organisers there estimate that over 10,000 people from the town joined a march to the threatened hospital.
Sylvia Rainbow is a nursing sister who has worked at Chase Farm for the last 16 years. She told Socialist Worker what had motivated so many people to attend.
“No one can deny that there has been money spent on the NHS under this government, but it all seems to be lining the pockets of the private companies moving into the health service and the managers that administer the internal market that dominates our service.”
Sylivia had little time for health bosses who claim that closing local hospitals will ultimately benefit patients.
“The heads of the strategic health authority want to close the accident and emergency unit, the maternity wards and the children’s wards, they have nothing to say to those who do not have a car to travel to the specialist centres.
'People's lives are threatened by these cuts,' she said.
Many people at the protests talked about the need for a national campaign to link up those who are fighting closures at a local level. There was also widespread anger at Gordon Brown’s insistence that health workers should only receive a 1.9 percent pay rise this year.
The health executive of the Unison union has agreed to call a national demonstration over the NHS this year.
Activists must now pressurise Unison leaders to name the date for that demonstration.
Full report, including details of action around the country, will be available in the next issue of Socialist Worker.