Up to 400 people marched through Huddersfield against the proposed closure of the local accident and emergency (A&E) department, today, Sunday. The demonstration was followed by speeches and a fun day—organisers said 10,000 took part.
The protest was organised by the Hands off Huddersfield Royal Infirmary (HRI) campaign.
NHS bosses want to “centralise” all acute care at Calderdale Royal Hospital in Halifax. Anne Hall from Huddersfield told Socialist Worker, “We're just appalled at the plans to close the A&E.
“The roads to Halifax are very bad, which will make it difficult for ambulances to transport patients.
“They've said that they haven't done any dummy runs from outlying areas to check the time, but for a patient the first hour is critical.”
Dave Heart agreed, “The bottom road to Halifax is horrendous, this will be a real danger to patients.”
Now NHS bosses are proposing to slash the ambulance service in the area, which would put patients' lives in even more danger.
A delegation of ambulance workers joined the front of the march. Angela from the Unison union's Yorkshire ambulance branch told Socialist Worker in a personal capacity, “They now want to reduce Honley ambulance station to just one ambulance and one response car.
“How is one ambulance supposed to cover the whole area—it's just not enough.”
Trade unionists also joined the march.
John Drewery, the president of Huddersfield trades council, told Socialist Worker, “If we can't defend the NHS, then what can we defend?
“This campaign is about defending the NHS from the Tories. If their plans go through people’s lives are on the line—that's what's at stake."
The march in Huddersfield comes after revelations of the Tories’ intention to shut hospital departments across England under “sustainability and transformation plans” (STPs). It also came ahead of a planned five-day walkout by junior doctors on Monday of next week.
The junior doctors are fighting Tory health secretary Jeremy Hunt's imposition of a dangerous new contract that would rip apart their terms and conditions and put patient safety at risk.
Hunt's attack on the junior doctors is part of a plan to smash health workers’ pay and terms and conditions to soften up the NHS for privatisation.
Mike Foster from the Hands Off HRI campaign told the crowd, “This is the first protest since the STPs were announced.
“It's also the first protest since junior doctors said they would take renewed industrial action.
“We wholeheartedly give our solidarity to the junior doctors’ fight to save the NHS.”
NHS bosses will release their final decision about the HRI on 20 October. A consultation published last month showed that 60 percent said they would be hit negatively by the plans.
The march showed how the NHS can become a focal point for resistance.
As Tory MP Jason McCartney spoke a few people chanted "Tories Out".
These kinds of local fights can now be strengthened by the junior doctors’ action.
As John said, “We went down to the picket lines during the last strike and we're encouraging all our affiliated unions to support the junior doctors' picket lines this time round.”