Three big local demonstrations to defend local hospitals will take place across London on 15 September. Protests are organised for Ealing, Brent and Greenwich. A fourth demonstration will hit the streets of Hammersmith on 22 September.
Activity has been growing since North West London NHS announced plans to close half its A&Es. Hammersmith, Ealing, Charing Cross and Central Middlesex hospitals’ A&Es face the axe. Meanwhile South London Healthcare Trust’s plunge into administration means whole hospitals could close.
The breadth of the campaigns is reminiscent of the battle to defend the A&E at Whittington Hospital in 2010, which put 5,000 on the streets in north London, and stopped the attack.
Labour-controlled Ealing council is on board. Every constituent has received a letter opposing the closures and a mailing advertising the demonstration. The council has plastered the area with posters. It has also translated leaflets into nine languages.
Ealing GMB union activist Raj Gill is on the march organising committee of the Save Our Hospitals Campaign. He told Socialist Worker the closures are a “man-made tsunami” that can be stopped. “We gathered 15,000 signatures against the closures just from street petitions,” he said.
“The main health unions are on board—we want workers from the hospital in uniform to lead the march. Religious groups and community and disability organisations are part of the campaign. The GMB battle bus will be used on the day so those not mobile can come on the march too.”
He predicts a mass turnout, saying, “The initial shock is turning into anger—people are now telling you they’ll be there. I think it will be something Ealing has never seen before.”
Pete Firmin is the chair of Brent trades council, which has been central to the campaign. He spoke to Socialist Worker. “Brent Labour councillors were shamed into joining us by Ealing council’s involvement in their campaign. We’re leafleting schools, hospitals, and GPs’ surgeries,” he said.
Another local activist, Martin Frances, told Socialist Worker, “If the anger on the streets translates into people coming on the march, it’ll be huge.” He stressed, “Central Middlesex A&E covers two of the hardest pressed wards in the country. Health is pretty poor here.
“There are several railway lines, the North Circular road, and the massive industrial estate at Park Royal—so there’s a high potential for accidents. There’s no direct bus link to the next A&E. The only walk-in centre is privately run by Care UK—who recently lost 6,000 X-rays.”
In the south east, Lynn Chamberlain, secretary of Greenwich and Bexley trades council, said activists had “written to every councillor, every trade union and every campaign in the locality”.
“Thousands of leaflets have gone out too,” she added. “The GMB has emailed all its reps and activists with the leaflet for the demo.”
The campaigns show the potential for resistance to NHS attacks in local areas—and the huge anger over the Tories’ austerity agenda.