MANY thousands of nurses, midwives, doctors, physiotherapists, domestic staff, porters and technicians from hospitals all over Britain are marching through London to defend the NHS today.
The march assembles at Temple Place on the Victoria Embankment from 11am, moving off at 12.30pm to head for the rally in Trafalgar Square.
Sharon Holder Public Sector National Officer GMB told News Line: ‘As an organisation we feel that privatisation in the NHS is a wrong policy.
‘If we don’t keep an eye on the situation the NHS will cease to be a not-for-profit service and will become instead a for-profit business.’
Tony Koutsoumbos, RCM (Royal College of Midwives) Communications Officer told News Line: ‘We are very concerned about closures of maternity units and staff shortages which are linked to closures.
‘I’ve been in negotiations with the government and it has announced its commitment to providing a full range of birthing options to all women by 2009.
‘But those goals cannot possibly be achieved with the closures of maternity units and cuts in training budgets and recruitment.
‘We need about 5,000 more midwives, but many newly-qualified midwives are failing to find a place after graduating. We’ve expressed our concerns over closures of maternity units in Manchester and elsewhere.’
A BMA (British Medical Association) spokesman told News Line: ‘We are very concerned about the threats of private provision, the increasing fragmentation of health services, increasing job insecurity and the imposition of reforms without consultation.’
Warren Town, Director of Industrial Relations for the Society of Radiographers told News Line: ‘Our members want to make a protest at the way they have been treated by the government, the failure to recognise the importance of their skills and the intense efforts that they have put into meeting government initiatives.
‘Moving health provision away from General Hospitals is a dangerous experiment.’
Derek Simpson, Unite Joint General Secretary, said: ‘Huge amounts of public money are being spent on private sector involvement in our public services without any real accountability.
‘As well as attacking the public ethos of the NHS this creeping privatisation is sucking the blood out of public health care in Britain and depriving the NHS of vital funds.’
Unison General Secretary and TUC President Dave Prentis said: ‘There is no place for markets and competition in our health service.’
TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: ‘Recent recruitment freezes and redundancies are leaving health employees with bigger workloads and unpaid overtime is increasingly becoming the norm.’
All Trades Unions Alliance National Secretary Dave Wiltshire said: ‘This government is cutting and closing District General Hospitals around the country, while TUC leader Barber and the other trade union leaders just note the fact that NHS workers are having to work like slaves to keep things going.
‘The only way to deal with this bosses’ government is to organise a general strike to bring it down and replace it with a workers’ government which will kick out the privateers and maintain and develop the National Health Service.’
An eve-of-march survey by NHSTogether found more than half of health service workers (57 per cent) are working more than their contracted hours and over four-fifths (84 per cent) said that their workload had increased in the last year.
Almost two-thirds (65 per cent) of staff working more than their contracted hours were not getting paid for this extra work.
Citing the reasons for their extra workload, over three-quarters (77 per cent) blamed additional duties and responsibilities, nearly half (47 per cent) said it was down to insufficient sickness, maternity or holiday cover, and another 45 per cent identified vacancy freezes and redundancies as the cause.