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sos nhs logo over demo scene

On Saturday 11th March tens of thousands of people, including doctors, nurses, paramedics, midwives, physiotherapists, other support staff from a range of disciplines, and concerned patients and public, amassed outside London’s University College Hospital at the start of a nationwide demonstration under the slogan "SOS NHS!". Members of local campaign group Defend Enfield NHS were pleased and proud to be in the thick of it as protesters went on to march through central London to Downing Stree,t accompanied by a variety of bells and whistles, drums, chants and banners.

While the main focus was on the crucial demand for a fair day’s pay for nurses and their health colleagues, there was much more to it than that. Support for the strikes was backed by support for the need to end the unprecedented crisis in the NHS and by so doing protect the health and safety of patients.

It was about restoring the NHS to its former glory of being the best healthcare service in the world. About stopping unnecessary suffering and death. About demanding that the government find the resources and the political will to save the NHS for future generations. And about ensuring that it is there when they need it for those who, through taxation and national insurance, have paid for it throughout their working lives.

The NHS For People Not Profit was at the core of messages to the , whose reluctance to fund the NHS adequately has caused massive staff shortages, ever lengthening waiting lists, ambulance queues at A&E - all with people tragically dying as a consequence. The outpouring of love for OUR NHS and the strength of feeling against the damage caused by backdoor privatisation was palpable.

At the start and finish of the march, a variety of medics, several MPs, the chair of the British Medical Association Council, and representatives from health unions and organisations, such as Doctors Association UK, NHS Staff Voices, NHS Workers Say No, and Just Treatment, spoke of the need to stop millions of pounds being wasted on private providers, including hospitals, GP online services, and the recently introduced diagnostic hubs.

Corporate bodies like Circle Health, Palantir, Optum and Centene take on hospital management contracts with little or no apparent vetting or tendering process and yet will without hesitation abandon those contracts if they are not profitable enough. Where are the penalty clauses to protect the NHS from financial loss when it has to pick up the pieces? Similarly, as evidenced by one local website, privately provided diagnostic hubs and GP services will ask patients seeking treatment for their money first and foremost!

This, in complete contrast to the founding principles of the NHS as a healthcare system which is publicly-owned, publicly-funded, publicly-accountable and free at the point of use with decisions being made on grounds of clinical, not financial, need.

The assertion that significant pay rises are “unaffordable” is simply not true. Where there is a will there is a way. What is true, is that the nation simply cannot afford to lose the NHS, the treasured institution that has been there for most of us from cradle to grave for the past 75 years.

Closing remarks in Whitehall were given by Dr Tony O’Sullivan, a doctor in the NHS for 40 years and now co-chair of campaigners Keep Our NHS Public (KONP), an organisation that can be justifiably proud of a demonstration which was good-natured and trouble-free but totally determined to fight its corner.

To quote KONP:

“Staff are the beating heart of the NHS. They were the front line during the pandemic. And they are the front line in the fight to save OUR NHS now”.

And, let the government be in no doubt, patients and the wider public are also absolutely emphatic in their support for OUR NHS!

defend enfield nhs logo

There is no better way to sum up the rationale for the existence of DENHS, Health Campaigns Together, Keep Our NHS Public, Doctors for the NHS, Junior Doctors Alliance, NHS Patient Voice, We Own It, and many others, than in the words of Nye Bevan, founder of the NHS in July 1948:


We are those folk - come and join us!

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