Hundreds of health workers and campaigners marched on parliament yesterday (Tuesday) to show their continued opposition to the Tories’ health and social care bill.
Up to 800 protesters joined the march in London, called by the Unite union and the Keep Our NHS Public group, as one of a series of events to mark the 63rd birthday of the NHS.
Many of those who joined the demo were keen to stress that they are not fooled by the Tories’ cosmetic changes to the bill and that the future of the NHS is still under threat.
Bill Guy marched with a group from the National Pensioners’ Convention. He told Socialist Worker, “We don’t want health care to go the way of the US—we don’t want privatisation.
“It’s not just pensioners who need the NHS. We are also thinking of our children, our grandchildren and our great grandchildren. We want them to have a decent health service too.”
Lots of health workers joined the protest. Speech therapists Wendy and Sue came with a group of health workers and campaigners from the Whittington hospital campaign.
“The cuts in the NHS are really worrying, but the health bill is just adding insult to injury,” Sue told Socialist Worker. “It’s the lack of transparency that gets me. Health care should be about patients, not about shareholders.”
Wendy pointed out that the cuts and privatisation in the health service are already impacting on the services offered. “The NHS should be about improving people’s quality of life, not just about life or death,” she said.
There was a lot of support from bystanders as the march wound its way noisily towards Westminster for a rally outside parliament.
Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite, told the protesters, “We are here to make certain that those that seek to dismantle the NHS know that we will not allow it.” He went on to point out that “when working people are united, anything is possible—just look at the Middle East, where people power is bringing down tyrants”.
Labour’s shadow health secretary John Healey also addressed the rally, saying that the Tories’ plans “won’t just change the NHS as we know it—they will end the NHS as we know it”.
A speaker from NHS Direct Action was applauded when he appealed to John Healey and others in the Labour Party to speak out more clearly and strongly against the bill.
Many other grassroots activists and health workers addressed the rally and all pledged their determination to keep up campaigns to stop the Tories wrecking the NHS.