Socialist Worker

Thousands take to the streets to beat Tory health cuts in the NHS

Two huge marches to defend local services show a mood to defend the NHS, writes Tomáš Tengely-Evans

Issue No. 2528

Protesters in Grantham fighting to save an A&E department

Protesters in Grantham fighting to save an A&E department (Pic: Richard Buckwell)


Thousands of people took to the streets of Grantham and Leicester to fight against the Tories’ assault on the NHS last Saturday.

Around 5,000 people marched through Grantham, Lincolnshire, to keep the accident and emergency (A&E) department open full time.

Richard Buckwell, the chair of Notts Keep Our NHS Public, was in Grantham on Saturday.

He said, “The march was larger than the first one only two months ago.

“This time there were more banners and placards from different groups and Unison brought two union banners.”

He added, “The Labour Party was also more visible with their own banner, placard and leaflets.”

Health bosses at the United Lincolnshire Hospital Trust are trying to axe the A&E during the evenings because of staff shortages.

They have claimed that the move is only temporary until they recruit more doctors, but it is likely to be a prelude to closure.

It also comes against the backdrop of the Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) that would shut hospital departments across Britain.

As Richard said, “The department is still closed in the evenings and there are no immediate signs of reopening.

“The Sustainability and Transformation Plan for Lincolnshire would turn the hospital into an ‘urgent care service’ with no A&E at all.”

Heart

Earlier that day around 1,000 people also marched through Leicester to keep East Midlands Congenital Heart Centre open.

NHS England bosses want to axe the centre at Glenfield hospital in the city by April of next year.

The march was lively and chants of “Save our Glenfield—save our kids” and “Stop the cuts” rang out.

NHS England has said the unit does not meet clinical standards, but campaigners rightly see this as a smokescreen.

The Tories are now trying to use clinical outcomes, instead of cost-based argument, to try to force through massive cuts.

But the marches on Saturday show there is a mood to fight for the NHS. The Tories’ assault can be pushed back.

The protests came as MPs slammed the government for underfunding the NHS.

The Health Select Committee said the Tories’ claims of £10 billion more funding are “not only incorrect but risk giving a false impression that the NHS is awash with cash”.

The fact that committee chair Sarah Wollaston, a Tory MP, has slammed the government is a sign of the depth of the NHS crisis and that its assault can be pushed back.

As Michael Grisenthwaite from Leicester told Socialist Worker, “The protest today is a good start to the campaign.

“But more protests will be needed to convince politicians that we do not want our NHS to be cut and privatised.”


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