Hundreds of protesters marched through Oxford last Saturday to demand investment in the NHS and an end to privatisations.
They chanted, “What do we want? £34 million! When do we want it? Now!” — referring to cuts being imposed on health services in the area.
The health service cuts in Oxfordshire are part of a wider pattern. Last week health secretary Patricia Hewitt ordered NHS trusts to force through up to £700 million in cuts over the winter—the time of year when the NHS is under its greatest strain.
After marching the campaigners held a rally at a local hospital, which drew together different health campaigns and agreed on further action.
Labour councillor George Parish is a member of the Keep the Horton General campaign, which is fighting to save a hospital in Oxfordshire. He told the rally, “When Labour got in I never thought I’d be fighting to save services in Horton.”
His comments were echoed by Dennis Preece, a member of SOS for Mental Health Services. “My father was Aneurin Bevan’s agent in 1946, when he was building the NHS. I never thought I’d be here criticising a Labour government,” he added.
Mark Ladbrooke is chair of the Oxfordshire health branch of the Unison union. He told the rally how health campaigners in Oxfordshire have already won one battle over privatisation.
A lively campaign, backed by Keep Our NHS Public, forced Thames Valley health authority to suspend its plans to privatise the commissioning of healthcare across the county.
Another glimpse of what these cuts mean on the ground came from Burnley last week. East Lancashire health trust met to consider its options in its attempt to claw back a £27.5 million shortfall.
Local health campaigner John Johnston said, “Proposal number three, which it is widely believed the trust favours, will mean the closure of the accident and emergency department, the intensive care unit and the high dependency unit in Burnley. These will be moved 11 miles away to Blackburn.”
Campaigners in the area plan to lobby the next meeting of the trust board on 30 November.
Go to Health Workers frustration boils over for more on the NHS.
For more information on health campaigns around the country, go to www.keepourNHSpublic.com