The independent London newspaper

Tens of thousands expected at NHS march

Major demonstration following winter hospital chaos

02 February, 2018 — By Tom Foot

The Whittington march in 2013 

TENS of thousands of NHS workers, activists and unions will join a national “emergency” demonstration tomorrow (Saturday).

The public who support a properly-funded health service are invited to march from Gower Street around midday to the rally in central London.

Keep Our NHS Public will also be joining the “day of action” organised by Health Campaigns Together and The People’s Assembly.

Last month, at St Mary’s, Paddington, a leading consultant went public with dire warnings about the consequences of what he described as a “sustained period of famine” in terms of NHS funding.

Dr Helgi Johannsson revealed that ceilings were falling down in medical wards and queues of patients waiting on the floor of A&E over Christmas.

“I don’t think the British public will allow things to get worse than this,” he said in an interview with The Observer.

“This is a wake-up call. The fifth richest nation in the world can do well by its old people and can do well by its sick people. It cannot get any worse now.”

Organisers of Saturday’s protest say that the annual “winter crisis” in the NHS has now become a “perpetual year-round crisis” that has “brought staff to their knees and patients languishing and even dying in overcrowded waiting rooms”.

“It is time this government stops blaming patients, nurses, doctors, immigrants, flu and the elderly for their shortcomings,” said the People’s Assembly in a statement. “It’s time they start listening to the country which is sick of empty promises from the mouths of cowardly politicians.”

The KONP group said that prime minister Theresa May and health secretary Jeremy Hunt had made a “hollow apology” for the delays and surgery cancellations over Christmas.

“This comes after almost eight brutal years of frozen funding by their government has reduced spending on health and the numbers of hospital beds to the lowest of any equivalent country,” the group said. “We don’t want apologies, we want changes.”

The GMB represents many workers in the health, ambulances and care sector. Dave Powell, GMB regional officer, said: “The NHS and social care are now at complete breaking point and require extra funds now, with social care and general care suffering the brunt of the cuts.

“The cuts to local authority budgets since 2010 have decimated social care, meaning that care packages are not in place for those who need them who are currently in hospital.

“This leads to a lack of beds on wards, which puts huge pressure on A&E units resulting in ambulances waiting in queues for hours to discharge their patients.”


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