Chants of “Save our NHS” rang through Newcastle city centre as over 1,000 people joined a march against the Tories’ assault on the health service last Saturday.
John Whalley from the local health campaign said, “What will happen with this draft plan will be the closure of some departments, cuts to some services and people will need to travel further for treatments.”
Dividing England into 44 “footprints”, the STPs would axe hundreds of hospital departments and services with the aim of slashing £22 billion by 2020.
The Northumberland, Tyne, Wear and North Durham draft STP has not detailed specific attacks, but it is based on slashing £641 million from the local budget. But opposition is growing, with local groups springing up to organise against them.
A growing number of local, mainly Labour-controlled, councils are refusing to sign off on their local STPs. This is a major roadblock to the Tories pushing through their plans successfully. Health campaigners should pressure their own councils to do the same.
Some Labour politicians are also getting behind the opposition. Emma Lewell-Buck, Labour MP for South Shields, had urged people to join the march in Newcastle.
“Our NHS is in crisis and the government’s answer is to force local areas to come up with plans predicated on massive cuts,” she said. “This is placing hospitals—including South Tyneside Hospital— right across England under threat.
“It is a deliberate attempt by the Tories to dismantle the NHS.”
The demonstration shows the possibility of building broad-based opposition that can push back the Tories’ assault.
The national demonstration in defence of the NHS in London on 4 March is an opportunity to bring these sorts of fights together.
It has been called by Health Campaigns Together and is backed by the People’s Assembly and the Unison and Unite unions.
Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell will also speak.
The whole Labour Party and other union leaders should support and practically build the demonstration.