Socialist Worker

Health workers and supporters block roads against the bill

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2295

Campaigners take to the streets of London last week  (Pic: Socialist Worker)

Campaigners take to the streets of London last week (Pic: Socialist Worker)

Protesters held vigils outside more than 20 hospitals on Monday of this week. They were marking the clearing of Andrew Lansley’s Health and Social Care Bill in the House of Lords.

The protests were called at only a few days notice by left wing Labour Party blogger Eoin Clarke. Yet people came out.

Some 60 people turned out in Sheffield and well over 100 at London’s St Thomas’ hospital. Around 500 people picketed the Department of Health in central London last Saturday.

Retired teacher Joanne Sanderson said, “The Tories want everything to be a business. There are 23 millionaires in the cabinet. They don’t need to worry about public services.”

Jasmine, a student, added, “I wouldn’t feel safe without free healthcare. We don’t want to end up like the US where people die if they don’t have insurance.”

Francis held a placard against the closure of privatised GP surgeries in Camden. “It’s a good example of what happens when private companies take over,” he said.

“If they think they can make a profit out of a surgery then they will, but if not then they can just shut it down.” Protesters blocked the road, chanting “NHS not for sale”.

One protester, Frannie, said, “It feels like this is the last chance to stop the NHS being sold off. “There hasn’t been much organised opposition until now. Hopefully actions like this can get us noticed.”

The turnout shows the strength of feeling against NHS cuts and privatisation. If trade unions and the Labour Party had called a national demonstration to save the NHS, they could have got millions on the streets. Instead they held an indoor rally.

“The TUC urgently needs to call a national march,” said Frank Wood, a member of the Unite union executive. “Health workers are getting frustrated with the inaction.”

As a large group of protesters marched up to the Strand they were confronted by lines of riot police. The protest stopped traffic on one of the busiest streets in London, in front of one of Richard Branson’s Virgin Active gyms.

The convicted fraudster’s Virgin Care is bidding to take over children’s services in Devon when they are privatised in May.

After the bill is made law, there will be many more attempts by private companies to take over services. Each of those battles must be fought.

There is enough opposition to make the bill a nightmare for the Tories to implement—just like the hated poll tax 20 years ago.

“Stopping the bill is an ongoing process, and we need to continue protesting,” said musician Matthew on Saturday’s protest.

“But we need to put up more of a united front. The best response to the privatisation of the NHS would be a coordinated national strike.”

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