Socialist Worker

Thousands join NHS march in north London

by Sarah Ensor
Issue No. 2344

Thousands endured the rain to join a lively protest to defend the Whittington Hospital in north London today, Saturday.

Delegations of trade unionists, health workers and activists marched alongside local people to oppose plans to slash over 500 jobs, over 100 beds and sell off £17 million worth of buildings.

Passing traffic blared horns in support as the noisy march snaked its way along the Holloway Road to the hospital in Archway. The protest was sea of placards and flags from the Unison, Unite and GMB unions.

Nurses, doctors, health care assistants and midwives joined the march.

Health care assistant and phlebotomist, Carol Gardner, was among them. Four generations of her family will have been born at the Whittington when her grandchildren arrive in May and August.

She said, “We’re here to oppose the plans for health cuts. There’s a very good level of care at the Whittington.

“But there’s no longer a stroke unit and people have to be transferred to University College Hospital in central London. That’s a long way from here.”

The Defend Whittington Hospital battle bus led the cortege. Teachers and lecturers from local schools and colleges brought their NUT and UCU union banners in solidarity.

More people joined along the route as the marchers chanted, “Whittington hospital not for sale!” and “Whose hospital? Our hospital!”

Many of the marchers had been born in the hospital or been patients there.

Vaughan West, branch secretary of the GMB union branch at Islington council, said, “The Whittington is the local hospital for thousands of workers, as well as residents. If they sell it off there’s nowhere else near.”

Up to 3,000 people rallied outside the hospital and listened to speakers, including Owen Jones, Labour MPs and trade unionists who demanded the cuts be scrapped.

To loud applause, Rob Murthwaite from Disabled People Against the Cuts, demanded the Labour Party call a national demonstration to defend the NHS.

There was also loud support for firefighters resisting London mayor Boris Johnson’s plans to close fire stations.

George Binette, branch secretary of Camden Unison, said, “We have to make sure US-style health care doesn’t come here.

“My mother lives in the US and has cancer. Her chemotherapy tablets cost $20 (over £13) each.”

Campaigners were buoyed by the knowledge that previous battles to defend the Whittington have been successful. In 2010, massive opposition forced health bosses to retreat from plans to close the A&E unit.

Many on the march are now looking forwards to the chance to come together with campaigners from across the capital at forthcoming London-wide public meetings and demonstrations.

  • Yorkshire ambulance workers in the Unite union have voted to strike on Tuesday 2 April against cuts. They have also backed an overtime ban from 6am on 26 March.Yorkshire Ambulance Service plans to introduce ambulance staff with six weeks basic first aid training instead of the two year paramedic course. It has also derecognised the Unite union.

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Thu 21 Mar 2013, 14:18 GMT
Issue No. 2344
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