The Regency town of Cheltenham reverberated to chants of “Welfare not Warfare - Keep the NHS” last Saturday as thousands of campaigners marched through the town.
The march to defend local NHS services was made up of local people, joined by trade unionists with banners from as far away as Plymouth and Dorset. Activists from NHS campaigns currently running in the Forest of Dean, Stroud and the Cotswolds also attended.
It was the biggest and noisiest demonstration in the town since Margaret Thatcher visited at the height of the anti poll tax movement.
In recent weeks, large local campaign rallies and lobbies, have raised the temperature in an area where many NHS facilities face closure.
It was clear to demonstrators that the attack on local services was part of a wider threat to the NHS. Locally, one or two hospitals have been “saved” by private intervention.
The day before the demonstration, Prince Charles visited Tetbury hospital, which had avoided closure but is now run as a private trust accepting private and NHS patients.
A similar solution has been proposed for the Dilke hospital in the Forest of Dean, a hospital founded primarily through subscriptions by local miners.
Such a solution plays into the hands of the privateers in Tony Blair’s cabinet.