Thousands of health workers, patients and union members took to the streets in London on Saturday protesting against a “crisis” in NHS funding which Jeremy Corbyn has blamed on “Tories and austerity”.
The Labour Leader posted a video on Twitter today saying that it “can’t have escaped anyone’s notice that our NHS is crisis”, with the exception of Theresa May, Jeremy Hunt and the “rest of the Tories”.
“In the face of all the evidence - patients being treated in hospital corridors, people dying in the back of ambulances, hospitals in dire need of repair- they are refusing to give our NHS the money it needs and needs now.
“The NHS will only survive if we fight for it.”
Slogans such as “No ifs, no buts, no NHS cuts” were chanted as protesters gathered at Gower Street and shook banners criticising the Health Secretary’s salary. A sculpture of a vulture tearing into the NHS was also displayed.
The event, called ‘NHS in crisis: Fix it now’, was organised by the People’s Assembly and Health Campaigns Together and called on the Government to provide more beds, staff and funds to ease the problems facing the service.
Activists, some of whom were bused in from cities such as Bristol and Nottingham, marched through central London from midday, then held an hour-long rally opposite Downing Street.
Frances O’Grady, TUC general secretary said: “Our NHS is in intensive care, starved of the resources necessary to meet the needs of our ageing and diverse society.”
Actor Ralf Little recalled how his mother suffered a stroke and had been saved by NHS staff for free while his mother-in-law paid thousands for a routine operation in Florida.
He said: “My mother-in-law spent two nights in hospital, had a minor operation, and was discharged two days later. She has excellent insurance so was only presented with a bill for $2,500.
“My mother was rushed to hospital in an ambulance, received expert emergency care, stayed in hospital for two weeks to recover, was treated daily by consultants, physical therapists, occupational therapists and nursing staff, was escorted home in a taxi and checked on three times a day for a further five weeks.”
Shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth, who attended the demonstration, earlier said: “We should be celebrating the 70th year of our NHS, yet the NHS is going through its worst winter on record. We have a fight on our hands for the future of a universal public NHS.”
“Meanwhile, brilliant, dedicated staff have suffered year after year of pay misery and are having to do more, with less, for less. ”
Royal College of Nursing president Cecilia Akrisie Anim told the rally: “Nursing staff are bearing the brunt of the enormous pressures facing the NHS.
“Staff at every level are experiencing burnout and many of our colleagues are turning their back on jobs they love. It’s no surprise that nursing staff feel overstretched and undervalued. There are now more than 40,000 nurse vacancies in England alone.
“2018 is 70 years since the formation of the NHS and nurses have always been at the heart of it. Urgent action is needed to address the current crisis – if none is taken, it is our patients who will suffer. We will continue to speak out to defend our NHS.”