Some 2,000 health workers, students and campaigners marched through central London yesterday (Tuesday) to save the NHS. The demonstration, called by Keep Our NHS Public and the Heath Workers Network was in response to government plans to tear apart the public health service and open the floodgates of privatisation.
The mood throughout the protest was defiant, with a feeling that we can win.
Medical students led the march. Ben a second year at UCL told Socialist Worker, “The uprisings in the Middle East are proof that if you fight you can win. That’s what I’ve been telling people on my course—and nearly everyone I study with is against the Tories’ health bill.
“We basically think that it is going to result in more privatisation and worse services. The private sector is going to cherrypick the bits of the NHS that it wants, and leave everything else. That will be a disaster for everyone who works in the service and everyone who uses it.”
Kath is Unison member and part of a group of London ambulance workers who came to the demo with a specially made banner.
“We’re here because we are very worried about the future of our service as the cuts begin to bite. London Ambulance Service recently announced a lot of job losses and we fear that student paramedics, who are not already under contract, are going to finish their training but have no job to go to.
“We are already feeling the affect of cuts hitting other parts of the NHS, particularly with A&E closures. Travelling longer distances to casualty units with serious ill people on board our ambulances can put lives at risk.
“The nature of our work means that our lives are already stressful. But what the government is proposing is going to make things a whole lot worse.”
As the demonstration wound through the streets of central London people clapped and cheered. The marchers cheered back, fists raised. As the march hit Charing Cross Road, health workers held a die in and lay in the road.
Many bystanders took placards and leaflets and joined the protest as it proceeded noisily down Whitehall towards the department of health.
There, health workers in uniform poured red tinted water on the slabs at the front of the building, and held up 'blood stained' hands to symbolise the death of the NHS and the damage the plans will cause.
The chants of 'Andrew Lansley, get out, we know what you're all about: cuts, job losses, money for the bosses' were deafening. People called for further actions, demonstrations and occupations to finish of health minister Andrew Lansley's health bill once and for all.
A rally was held outside the University College Hospital in Euston, where huge cuts to services and staff levels are threatened.
Protesters heard from a wide variety of speakers, including Labour MPs Jeremy Corbyn and Frank Dobson, Steve Headly from the RMT rail union, Mark Campbell from the UCU lecturers' union and Gail Cartmail from the Unite union executive.
Gail Cartmail told the crowd, 'It is an honour to be here with all of you, and with members of the Unite executive committee. Trade unionists understand we have to fight and stand together.
'We don't want a pause to the bill, we demand a halt to these plans which are a wrecking ball to the NHS.'
Lindsey Moon spoke from Queer Resistance, who campaign around the way cuts will affect the lives of LGBT people. She told the crowd, 'Twenty five years ago my friend died of AIDS, there were no services to help him. The charities and services we fought for are having their funding slashed.
'We are not going back to the 1980s.'