MORE than 6,000 trade unionists and NHS supporters marched through Leeds last Saturday afternoon against Tory government cuts and the privatisation of the NHS throughout Yorkshire and the north of England.
Health workers and their supporters from as far as Grantham and Stafford as well as from across Yorkshire, marched alongside delegations including Hands Off Huddersfield Royal Infirmary, Colne Valley Save Our Hospitals, Students Want Our NHS Public, Yorkshire and Humberside Unite, University of Leeds Unison, Defend Our NHS York, Leeds Central GMB, Kirklees Unison and PCS Yorks and Humberside.
Junior doctors and student nurses on the march called on the government to reinstate bursaries to boost applications for nursing and midwifery courses. Members of Unison and Unite unions joined together with GMB activists, who donned hospital scrubs and pushed a mock bed along the streets.
Allan Lansdowne, one of the many marchers campaigning against cuts and privatisation at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary (HRI), told News Line: ‘They want to take our emergency services and shut them down. It will mean the nearest A&E will be at Calderdale Hospital over in Halifax.
‘At the moment, HRI serves a quarter million people. If they close it, Calderdale will have half a million people to serve.
‘They’ve said they are planning to go ahead with it by October 20th. Bed numbers are expected to go down from 400 to 140. What they want to do with HRI is to make it into a cottage hospital.’
Peter Ingram from Barnsley Save Our NHS said before the start of the march: ‘At Barnsley Hospital, they’re privatising the staff. It’s disgraceful that staff in the NHS are going to be moved into a private company. And it follows a whole period of mismanagement over the last ten years.’
A spokesperson for march organisers Yorkshire Health Campaigns Together said: ‘The truth is we do not need to cut our health services. The NHS was set up in 1948 at a time when the national deficit was greater than it is now on the grounds that it was not only morally right but cost effective to provide good health care for everyone, and the argument holds true today. We are the sixth richest nation in the world yet choose to spend less on health than most other European nations and have far fewer hospital beds and doctors.’