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NHS protest in London

NHS protest in London, Photo: Jamal Elaheebocus

People took to the streets around the country to mark the NHS's birthday with a demand for fair pay for health workers and to stop cuts and privatisation

London - Jamal Elaheebocus

Protestors gathered outside University College Hospital in London for the 73rd anniversary of the founding of the NHS to demand an end to privatisation, pay justice and patient safety.

There was a good number of NHS staff present, including many nurses who held placards demanding a decent pay rise, after the government offered an insulting 1% pay increase. Protestors chanted “What do we want? 15%! How do we get it? Strike!” and “1% won’t pay the rent."

Protestors then marched down Tottenham Court Road, with drums and whistles giving a carnival-like atmosphere. Buses and cars tooted their horns and gave thumbs up as the protest passed them and many onlookers cheered as the protest went by.

The march continued through Trafalgar Square and down Whitehall, stopping outside Downing Street where protestors chanted at Boris Johnson: “Boris Johnson hear us shout. Pay us properly or get out!”

There were several speeches, including from former shadow chancellor John McDonnell, who called out the government for social murder in their handling of the coronavirus pandemic. He also called on Keir Starmer and Labour to back the 15% pay rise campaign and for his union, Unison, to do more to support the campaign.

Other NHS staff spoke of their experiences during the pandemic, the major challenges they faced from PPE shortages and the trauma they have to live with now. One speaker described how this is a pivotal moment in the history of the NHS, as it faces an existential crisis due to privatisation.

Many NHS trade unionists spoke of the need for industrial action to achieve a 15% pay rise for NHS staff and the mood was extremely defiant. Chair of NHS Staff Voices Alia Butt spoke of the failures of privatisation, particularly with Serco’s involvement in Test and Trace, and the corrupt way in which contracts were handed out to Tory donors and friends of ministers.

It is clear from the reaction to the protest on the streets that the majority of the public support the call for a much higher pay rise for NHS staff and that the Tories will have a major fight on their hands with NHS staff and the wider public as they attempt to privatise and break down our NHS.

Photo: Jamal Elaheebocus

Blyth - David McAllister

A coalition of activists from Keep Our NHS Public (KONP), North East People's Assembly and the local Labour Party made a strong showing in Blyth to mark the NHS's birthday. John Walley from KONP gave a clear description of how the NHS is being privatised on the sly.

Locals signed a birthday card to the NHS with messages of support for care workers and of defiance against how the Tory government has treated them.

Newcastle Nurse Stacey Richardson spoke powerfully about her own experiences working through the Covid pandemic and how this has made the 1% pay offer even more of an insult. Working in healthcare is a privilege, she said, but it should never come at the expense of safety or making ends meet. Tony Dowling of People's Assembly spoke about the appalling condition the NHS was left before the pandemic and that the fight must continue to protect it from Tory profiteering.

The initial rally was followed by a march to the constituency office of Tory MP Ian Levy where a number of letters were delivered demanding that a stand is taken against the creeping privatisation of our NHS.

Photo: David McAllister

Whipps Cross - Carole Vincent

Today I joined Waltham Forest Trades Council, Unite the Union Barts Branch Secretary, Len Hockey & Campaigners for a celebration of 73 years of the NHS. It was a chance to highlight this Tory Government's privatisation & selling off of our NHS.

The protest was passionate, calling for a 15% rise in Nurses pay & a rise in the pay of NHS staff across the board. 

An issue close to campaigners hearts is the outsourcing of jobs to corporations such as SERCO. This has created unfair pay & today Len Hockey called for outsourcing to cease & for Barts Trust to bring back into house all our sourced jobs.

Whipps Cross site is due to be redeveloped & a new hospital built. Most of the current site is being sold off & with a growing population, developers want to build a hospital with 51 fewer beds, with the probable loss of The Margaret Centre, a hospice revered throughout the Country for its palliative care. Action4Whipps campaigners spoke about the fight to save beds & services. 

Photo: Carole Vincent

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