Thousands in London march to defend the NHS

Photo report by Peter Arkell

Several thousand people marched through London to Downing Street at the weekend in protest against the ConDems’ plans to carve-up the National Health Service and shut down key services. Medical staff, trade unionists, health campaigners and their supporters from all over London stopped in outside Downing Street to hold their meeting.

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Louise Irvine
Dr Louise Irvine, of the Save Lewisham Hospital

Dr Louise Irvine, chair of the Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign called for a national movement to be created. “Many services are at the point of breaking down,” she said, “with people beginning to die. From these local campaigns we need a national campaign. And we need the trade unions and the Labour Party to commit to repealing the Health and Social Care Act and the PFI (Public Finance Initiatives) schemes.”

In Lewisham, the campaign has set up a People’s Commission of Inquiry, with Michael Mansfield in the chair, to look into the government’s plans to downgrade the hospital. The commission will take evidence from expert witnesses including clinicians, health economists, patient groups, the mayor and local businesses.

Closures planned in the capital include nine A & E departments, a number of maternity units and thousands of hospital beds. Health and community services are also threatened with take-over by “care corporations” under the government’s plans to extend the market into the NHS. Hundreds of thousands of people across the capital have pledged their opposition to these plans. The march was supported by Unite and the GMB unions, with drummers at the head of their contingents, and by Unison, the RCN, and the RMT.

Other speakers at the meeting included Jeremy Corbyn MP, Darren Johnson of the Green Party, representatives from the campaigns at the Whittington Hospital and Ealing Hospital, and from Unite, Unison, the RCN and the NUT. Peter Kavanagh of Unite, pledged the support of his union for the campaign to defend the NHS: “If it takes civil disobedience, then civil disobedience it is,” he said.

20 May 2013

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The meeting in Whitehall outside the entrance to Downing Street

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NHS demo

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