Demonstrations to defend the NHS hit streets across London on Saturday of last week. Some 5,000 marched through Ealing, west London. And hundreds protested in Brent, north west London and in Woolwich, south east London.
Several A&E departments and some whole hospitals are under threat as bosses look to make cuts. The march in Ealing marks a significant breakthrough. The local Labour council backed the huge march. Announcements for it were made throughout the morning at Sikh and Hindu temples.
Belkis works in childcare. “None of these A&Es should close,” she told Socialist Worker. “Speaking as a childminder I know that if anything happens you need an A&E nearby. Most people are dependent on public transport. Lives are at risk.”
Unison, RCN, Unite and GMB union members from Ealing hospital joined the protest. Mr Johal, a Unite rep there, said, “It’s not just our A&E—they want to do the same at three other hospitals too. Strikes would help the campaign.”
Simerjeet Kaur Hargun, who works in Ealing hospital’s cardiology department, agreed. She said, “If you don’t fight back, services will go. There should be strikes in the hospital to stop this.”
Shirley Franklin from Defend the Whittington Hospital campaign was cheered when she addressed a rally on the day. That campaign stopped the closure of an A&E in 2010.
“Please health workers, be brave enough to think about strikes,” she said. “It might mean a lack of service for a few days, but if this government has its way those services are gone forever.”
Dr Onkar Sahota, London Assembly member for Ealing and Hillingdon, said that NHS bosses are lying when they say doctors back cuts. He said, “Doctors are against the closures.
“The longer it takes to get to A&E, the more chance there is that one of you will die. They’re trying to divide and rule through the consultation.”
Labour MP for Ealing North Stephen Pound described the march as “a fire flaming through the streets, fuelled by fury”. But Tory MP Angie Bray was widely booed, with cries of “We don’t believe you” as she pledged Tory support for the campaign.
Meanwhile 200 marched through Harlesden, one of the poorest areas in Brent. One man told Socialist Worker how he was sent from Central Middlesex Hospital A&E, already closed at night, to one in Harrow.
He waited 59 minutes on a trolley. Then he was taken into a gynaecology room to wait—so he wouldn’t be recorded as having waited for over an hour.
In Woolwich the loud and lively march was summed up by a young health worker who said, “We are not going to take this lying down.” The campaigns show the potential to escalate and stop the closures.
Protest to save Hammersmith and Charing Cross hospitals. Assemble 12pm, Saturday 6 October, at Sulgrave Road and march to Frank Banfield Park. Go to www.saveourhospitals.net for more details