Labour Party members and health campaigners were set to take to the streets this Saturday.
It is part of a national day of campaigning in defence of the NHS. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he wanted the day to include “trade unionists and other activists”.
The day of action comes as the Tories ramp up their assault on the NHS.
Further devastating details of the “Sustainability and Transformation Plans” (STPs) were published last week. If the Tories successfully push them through, hundreds of hospital departments and services across England will shut.
Proposals include downgrading accident and emergency (A&E) departments in Macclesfield, Milton Keynes, Teesside and Cambridge.
They would function as “urgent care services”, which deal with minor injuries, meaning that patients with more serious problems would have to be transferred.
In Teesside this would force patients to travel to Stockton five miles away or Darlington 16 miles away.
Similarly in Bedford the A&E and maternity departments would lose “consultant-led care” and their ability to carry out emergency surgery.
Not only would this mean longer travel times, it will have a knock-on impact on the number of beds available in the area.
The STP plan for South West London will axe acute services at one of the area’s six hospitals and could mean the loss of between 400 and 1,000 beds.
The Tories’ real aim is to further break up the NHS and soften it up for privatisation. The STPs could slash £22 billion from the NHS budget by 2020-21.
But a fightback from health workers and campaigners can repel their assault.
Health campaigners have already been mobilising against the plans, which has seen thousands-strong protests in Devon, Huddersfield and Grantham this autumn.
In a sign of growing opposition to the STPs, the British Medical Association (BMA) hit out against the plans. Mark Porter, chair of the BMA Council, said, “There is a real risk that these transformation plans will be used as a cover for delivering cuts, starving services of resources and patients of vital care.”
Top NHS boss Chris Hopson admitted last week that campaigners “have the ability to sink plans they don’t support”.
He said, “It’s very difficult for the NHS to proceed with whole scale change if you’ve got people out on the streets marching with placards and banners and saying ‘don’t do this’.”
The Tories and bosses know the NHS could become a focal point for resistance.
That’s why Labour’s national campaigning day is important. Having the Labour leader on their side can give people confidence to push for more resistance.
But it has to be the start of a national campaign, not just a one-off publicity opportunity. It will take mass protests—and serious industrial action by health workers—to repel the attack.