Tens of thousands have joined the People’s Assembly and Health Campaigns Together demonstration in London as anger against the assault on the NHS burst into the streets on Saturday.
Jennie had come with a 30-strong delegation from Chorley in Lancashire. “They shut out accident and emergency (A&E) department in April 2016,” she told Socialist Worker.
“We'd been campaigning since 2010, but that closure meant it really kicked off.
“We've been holding protests outside the hospital every Saturday since. We had around 70 people out this morning.”
Years of Tory budget cuts and privatisation brought the NHS to breaking point this winter.
Natasha, a nurse from Cambridgeshire, told Socialist Worker, “There's a lot of pressures on the NHS at the moment, but it's all been building up for a long time.
“There's a big crisis of understaffing and underfunding.”
Poverty pay and rocketing workloads have pushed health workers out of the NHS. As Natasha explained, “We've not had a pay rise for years, we feel disenchanted with what’s going on."
There were sizeable delegations from Labour Party branches. And shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth was behind the banner at the head of the demonstration after the party backed it yesterday.
Shoda, a student at the London School of Hygiene, was walking to the library when she saw the demonstration and joined in. She described herself as "so excited" to see the protest.
"I'm an international student so if I get sick I am covered. But not everyone is covered, health care should be for all!"
Beth, a hospital doctor, described the effects of the health cuts. “There's not enough funding, the NHS is crumbling. They've already started privatising it, there's not enough staff, especially nurses.
“The staff are under so much pressure, some are leaving and it's only going to get worse.
The Tories have promised us thousands more doctors by 2022, but they would have had to start training years ago to be qualified by then."
Hetty agreed that the Tories were to blame—“They're sending our health care down the pan. People will die because they can't afford to pay for care.”
Labour’s promise to renationalise the NHS has given people hope of stopping the Tories’ attacks.
Thomas, a Labour Party member from Harlow, told Socialist Worker, “I think that a Labour government that's led by Jeremy Corbyn has a plan for the NHS that will deal with the underfunding.”
But fighting the Tories’ assault cannot wait until after a general election—which might not come until 2022.
Niki, a nurse from Bolton, told Socialist Worker, “There's a bit of a feeling that because we've got the Conservatives in we have to wait rather than coming out like this. But the more people we have out the better.”
Jennie added, “We need renationalisation of the NHS, the manifesto was a bit ambiguous, but we asked Corbyn directly and he said wholesale renationalisation.
“The first fight is to get Labour in, the fight then is to make sure they do it.”