Save the NHS: Photos of the People’s March for the NHS in London, September 6, 2014

7.9.14

See my photos of the People’s March for the NHS and the rally in Trafalgar Square on Flickr here!

Some people think that protest is futile, but in Lewisham, in south east London, we know that’s not true. In 2012 and 2013, a grass-roots people’s movement in Lewisham defeated plans by the government — and senior officials in the NHS — to severely downgrade services at Lewisham Hospital to pay for the debts accumulated by a neighbouring NHS trust. If the plans had gone ahead, the 270,000 people of Lewisham would have had no A&E (Accident & Emergency) Department, and would have had to join 500,000 other people, from two other boroughs, served by one A&E many miles away on a remote heath in Woolwich. In addition, all frontline acute services would have been cut at Lewisham, and, as a result, 90 percent of the Lewisham’s mothers would not have been able to give birth in their home borough.

Although we won a significant victory in Lewisham, the zeal of the government — and of senior NHS managers — for increased privatisation, and for cuts that can only damage the provision of services to those in need continues, and, as with so many facets of the opportunistic “age of austerity” declared by the Tory-led coalition government, mass opposition is in short supply. What we need, at the very least, is regular opportunities to show the government, the banks and the corporations that we are implacably opposed to their corruption and cruelty, and yet we have had only two major protests in the last four years — one in March 2011 (the TUC-led “March for the Alternative“), and another (“A Future That Works“) in October 2012.

In January last year, the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign got 25,000 people out on the streets of Lewisham, providing hope and encouragement to campaigners across the country, and on Saturday, thousands of NHS supporters gathered in Red Lion Square in Holborn and marched to Trafalgar Square for a rally that was a culmination of a three-week, 300-mile march by around 30 mums (the “Darlo Mums”) and others from Darlington, who recreated the 1936 Jarrow March, as the People’s March for the NHS.

The campaigners — led by two mums, Rehana Azam and Joanna Adams — were inspirational, delivering powerful encouraging words to the crowd about the importance of the NHS, and the importance of solidarity, that had been honed throughout the last three weeks of marching and meeting like-minded people along the way.

On their website, the campaigners, who are calling for the repeal of the 2012 Health and Social Care Act (which opened up the NHS to ever-increasing privatisation), explain, “[W]e aim to make the public aware of what the coalition government has been doing to our NHS and what has been happening to our hospitals and health services. It’s really hard to passively watch the rapid dismantling, privatisation and destruction of the NHS. First we had the Health & Social Care Act, then Section 75 and more recently Clause 119 of the Care Bill. The Government have legislated to open the NHS to the open market. We believe every penny saved in the NHS should go back into improving and developing our NHS. We don’t want to see private companies operating in the NHS under the heading of ‘efficiency’ when we know they are accountable to their share holders, who are only interested in maximum profit before patient health care.”

I hope you have the opportunity to look at my photos of the arrival of the Jarrow marchers in Holborn, and the march from Red Lion Square to Trafalgar Square, and that you will share them if you support the cause.

A link to the photos is also below:

London NHS campaigners join the People's March for the NHS

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer and film-maker. He is the co-founder of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, and 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. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).

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4 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    On Facebook, Jan Strain wrote:

    It kills me to see the UK’s Welfare State destroyed by neo-liberals…How soon they forget

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    We’re still fighting, Jan, but serious damage has already been done. My hope is that people will remember that this isn’t the US – and that a belief in the common good is necessary for a decent society – before the whole welfare state is destroyed. Good to hear from you, my friend. I hope all is well with you.

  3. Thomas says...

    Protests are only heard in the mainstream media if people get hurt or stuff gets damaged. If 100,000 people marched peacefully and 30 more threw eggs and smashed windows only the 30 rioters would be reported.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, that’s sadly true, Thomas. I have long wondered why it is that, across the board, the media is reluctant to cover peaceful protests, and have concluded that, while the right-wingers obviously hate dissent and don’t want it reported, educated liberals also seem to have disdain for those who protest. I wonder how they think all our hard-won freedoms were secured from our rulers in centuries past.

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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, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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