‘Our demands include safe staffing and fair pay for NHS workers, an end to outsourcing as divisive and wasteful, and an immediate injection of capital funding to help start repairing the damage of 13 years of Conservative neglect.’
July 5, 2023, will mark 75 years of the National Health Service. In the run-up to the anniversary, a series of celebrations, protests and other events have been organised across the UK, designed to celebrate the health service and step-up campaigning to ensure its survival.
Up and down the country, street stalls are being held in celebration of the health service and to spread the message that the NHS needs better funding. Staff at the Sunderland and District KONP are holding a stall in Sunderland City Centre to collect signatures for a giant birthday card from the public. The card will be presented at staff at Sunderland Royal Hospital on July 5.
Meanwhile in Islington, campaigners are asking members of the public to write a message to Rishi Sunak about the NHS on its 75th birthday. The messages will be photographed and shared on Twitter.
One of the biggest events taking place today is the Northern March for the NHS. The event is being held in Leeds and is being organised by Keep Our NHS Public, Health Campaigns Together, and several regional campaigners.
LFF caught up with John Puntis, co-chair of Keep Our NHS Public and a retired consultant paediatrician. He told us:
“Yorkshire has held an annual march for the NHS from 2011, prompted initially by the Health and Social Care Bill and the huge threat that posed to the NHS as a public service. Campaigners from around the region are involved in the planning and the march is always led by the PCS samba band as we progress around the city centre.”
John Puntis explained how the event is always both a celebration of our NHS but also a protest about its relentless undermining through underfunding, lack of long term planning, derisory capital investment, and huge staff vacancies driving massive waiting lists.
“Our demands include safe staffing and fair pay for NHS workers, an end to outsourcing as divisive and wasteful, and an immediate injection of capital funding to help start repairing the damage of 13 years of Conservative neglect.
The co-chair of Keep Our NHS Public said the event has widespread support from trade union branches. NHS workers are speaking at the rally after the march, as well as local Labour MP, Richard Burgon.
“We see the purpose of the event as being to energise campaigning for the re-establishment of a fully public NHS based on its founding principles, and believe this is the ‘reform’ that is desperately needed.
“By engaging with the people of Leeds, media and local politicians we also hope to send a clear message that the public overwhelmingly supports a publicly provided service funded from taxation, and that it is not the NHS model that has failed but rather the NHS that has been failed by politicians.
Today’s march in Leeds comes as senior NHS doctors in England voted for a two-day strike over pay. This week, senior doctors voted in overwhelming numbers to go on strike over pay for the first time in almost 50 years. The vote is an attempt to put pressure on ministers to reverse the deep pay cuts they have been forced to live with since 2008.
Dr Vishal Sharma, chair of the BMA consultants committee, said: “We know consultants don’t take the decision around industrial action lightly, but this vote shows how furious they are at being repeatedly devalued by government.”
Hospital consultants will strike for two days, from 7am on July 20.
Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward
Image credit: Last year’s march: Keep Our NHS Public