Well over 500 doctors, medical students and supporters marched to the TUC Save the NHS rally from the British Medical Association (BMA) headquarters yesterday, Wednesday. Protesters chanted “Kill the bill” and “Andrew Lansley get out!”.
“This bill should never have been put before parliament at all,” said Maureen O’Leary from the NHS consultants association.
“We’ve already started to see hospitals being run more like businesses. But it’s simple maths—if someone’s making a profit there’s less money going to the people who work in healthcare.”
John Lister, co-chair of Keep Our NHS Public, told Socialist Worker, “The NHS is the most equitable health service in the world. But that means it has to be integrated, not fragmented into private companies accountable to their shareholders.”
Laylah, a student from La Swap sixth form, joined the march because of her experience growing up in the US.
“I’ve seen how hard it is for people there without health insurance,” she said. “I’m not a doctor or an expert, but I understand that if you privatise something like the NHS a lot of people will lose out. Private companies will get the power to decide who is worth treating.”
The protest grew in numbers as it marched through central London. “This is about the have-nots against the have-gots,” said one Aldwych shop worker who had come out to cheer and chant.
And along the way there were debates about how the bill could be stopped.
David Miles, a junior doctor from Hackney, said many of the changes were already happening. “Many of the organisational links in the NHS are being broken down. They’ve started to get rid of staff from the Primary Care Trusts.
“We’re moving away from a system where healthcare is available to all. We’ve organised protests at my hospital, and we need to keep protesting.”
His colleague Rob added, “It will take a lot to make Cameron back down. We need civil disobedience and we need to keep fighting the bill during its implementation.
“They won’t be able to implement these changes to the NHS without the people who work there.”
Most of the doctors on the march were members of the BMA, which is balloting for action short of a strike against attacks on their pensions. Some thought it was important to try and keep the dispute separate from the campaign against Lansley’s bill.
Medical student Gemma would support a strike of all NHS workers. “It’s sad it’s come to this, but it’s better to disrupt care for one day with a strike than to disrupt it forever with the bill.
“It will take something dramatic to stop the government now, and all NHS workers have to stand together.”