Save the NHS: London Protest Outside the Department of Health on Saturday March 17 — Plus A Last-Minute Call to Lobby Lib Dem MPs and Peers


With just a week to go until the NHS as we know it may be consigned to history, the time for concerted action is more important than ever. Last week, as I noted here in a round-up of recent events, shadow health secretary Andy Burnham secured a debate on the Health and Social Care Bill today, after forcing the government to honour Dr. Kailash Chand’s successful e-petition, which has secured over 170,000 signatures. 100,000 signatures are needed to secure a Parliamentary debate, but David Cameron has clearly begun to tire of his democratic experiment, and was trying to ignore the petition until he was shamed into responding.

However, despite possible fireworks in the House of Commons, the date for the bill to become law creeps ever closer, with March 20 as the intended date for it to make it onto the statute book, and the last obstacles continue to fall away, especially as senior Lib Dems failed to kill the bill at their spring conference at the weekend. — which must surely count as another capitulation for which they will be punished at the polls.

The “Block the Bill” website indicates that there will be a a day of action on March 14, but I’m not sure that there is time for a specific action to be established, and it might make more sense for campaigners to join with students, who already have a national day of action planned for Wednesday, which is supported by the NUS — see the NUS pages here and here — and also see the Facebook pages here and here. In London, campaigners are meeting at ULU, on Malet Street, at 1.30 pm for a march starting at 2 pm.

On Saturday January 17, however, another protest, “Last chance to save our NHS!” has been set up, via Facebook, to take place from 2.30 to 4.30 outside the Department of Health, 79 Whitehall. London SW1A 2NS, opposite the Cenotaph. A map is here.

The Facebook page states:

Join us outside the Department of Health in Whitehall on March the 17th and flood the streets with the sheer amount of people who care about free healthcare. The Government intend to vote the bill through on the 19th — let’s give them something to think about as they vote! Everybody in this country has used the NHS at some point in their lives. If you have used the NHS then you agree with free healthcare.

Pass this Facebook event along to everyone you know. Tell everybody you know what is happening to our NHS and that we can stop it. Let’s make this event HUGE.

We can make the government back down and drop the bill.

An earlier event, “Don’t let Richard Branson asset-strip the NHS!” is also taking place on Saturday (see the Facebook page), from 11 am to 2 pm outside the Virgin Health Club, Plaza Shopping Centre, 120 Oxford Street, to protest about Richard Branson’s involvement in the privatisation of healthcare.

Virgin Care is one of five “private health companies, not to mention accountancy firms and think-tanks,” who “have been involved in drafting and lobbying for the Health and Social Care Bill and other legislation leading to the privatisation of the NHS.companies,” as described on the “Block the Bill” website, under “Targets.”

The five key targets selected by “Block the Bill” are as follows, and the website also recommends “a five stage process to take action: 1. Pick a target, 2. Make some leaflet, posters, placards and banners (resources available on our website soon), 3. Pay a visit, 4. Tell the world, 5. Relax (don’t forget to rinse and repeat!).”

Target 1. Alpha Healthcare. See their website here. Why are they a target? Amongst other things, see The Green Benches article here.

Target 2. Virgin Care. See their website here (noting that, on March 8, 2012, “Assura Medical, one of the fastest growing independent providers of NHS services in the country, has officially changed its name to Virgin Care”). Why are they a target? Amongst other things, see the Guardian article here. Virgin Care is also poised to take over health services in Surrey. See the Guardian article here.

Target 3. Care UK. See their website here. Why are they a target? Amongst other things, see the Guardian article here. They’ve been targeted before, too (just over a year ago). See the Guardian article here.

Target 4. The Private Hospitals Alliance. See their website here. Why are they a target? Amongst other things, see the PHA page here, and the Political Scrapbook article here.

Target 5. Serco. See their website here. Why are they a target? Amongst other things, see here for a recent article by an anti-Serco activist. You may also enjoy this short video on “the biggest company you’ve never heard of.”

The “Block the Bill” page of “Targets” also mentions other names that readers may be interested in researching, most of which came from a report by Social Investigations exposing the links between these companies and the politicians who are involved with them, which is  a huge list, and worthy of further investigation.

And in the meantime, if you want to take part in a last-minute blitz of Lib Dem MPs and peers who may be vulnerable to the indignation of members of the public, then Dr. Éoin Clarke at The Green Benches has helpfully provided their Twitter addresses and a widget that allows you to email all of them in swift succession. You can also email Lib Dem groups up and down the country here, drawing on the fact that “59% of the Liberal Democrat delegates at the Conference on Sunday voted not to support the leadership’s position on the NHS.” And finally, if you contact any of the Lib Dems, ask them to support the amendment tabled this morning by five of their colleagues, which Dr. Clarke describes as follows:

Labour have tabled a motion calling for the NHS Bill to be dropped, but this morning the Lib Dems have proposed a crucial amendment to the NHS motion. They have proposed to decline to support the NHS Bill “in its current form.” This carries the signatures of 5 Lib Dem MPs but there are known to be other Lib Dem MPs also ready to support the amendment … Crucially, the clause that allows for up to 49% of private bed and theatre time utilisation by the private sector would be seen as a part of the current bill that is wholly unpalatable. It has become the focal point of resistance to the bill. You can read the order of business here.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg and YouTube). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in June 2011, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” a 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, and details about the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and available on DVD here — or here for the US). Also see my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and please also consider joining the new “Close Guantánamo campaign,” and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

15 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    On Facebook, Lisa Nilsson wrote:

    See “Suicide training in Job Centres? Cancer patients scrubbing floors? Welcome to Cameron’s Brave New World,” by Sonia Poulton in the Daily Mail:

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger wrote:

    I’m sharing this, Andy.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Lisa and thanks, George. That article you picked out from the Mail — of all places — is doing the rounds, George, and I’m glad to see it. Do you think Sonia Poulton could be allowed to become the Mail’s editor? That would be some sort of revolution …

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger wrote:

    Friends have noticed that the Mail has been printing some interesting and well-researched articles lately. Not many, but some. I noticed that too, and wondered why. You just provided me with one possible reason.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger wrote:

    She might, someday, be allowed, since imho the Fail is trying to compete with the Guardian.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    The Mail’s editors are good at opposing torture, George, but appalling on immigration, even though the two don’t add up, as racists want to see Muslims tortured. Generally, they promote the vilest form of Little England imaginable, which is why that article you highlighted is so extraordinary.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger wrote:

    I see. I wondered what was going on. I had hoped they were changing their tune.

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    You never know, George. People so rarely comprehend the bigger picture that they can’t see how fundamentally people’s perceptions in general have changed over the last 35 years, for example. The Mail might alter its editorial stance. I doubt it, but you never know. Perhaps in the next few years Christian charity will be revived as something fitting for supposed Christians to believe in, rather than the godless cruelties prevalent at the moment.

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger wrote:

    My thoughts exactly!

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Dejanka Bryant wrote:

    Thank you, Andy. I am sharing this right now.

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    You’re welcome, Dejanka. Good to hear from you. And I just posted an update on the need for Lib Dem peers to derail the bill on Monday by supporting Lord Owen’s important and principled amendment. Can you make it to the protest in Whitehall, outside the Department of Health, on Saturday?

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    Dejanka Bryant wrote:

    Yes, of course, Andy, I must be there.

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    I look forward to seeing you there, Dejanka.

  14. Alex Ashman says...

    You might just be interested in

  15. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Alex. Yes, very interesting.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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