As the Coaltion Government’s dismantling of the NHS continues apace, actions are taking place across the country in an attempt to head off the assault on our most cherished institution.
From August 16th to September 6th the 999 campaigners are marching from Jarrow to London echoing an earlier battle: the Jarrow Crusade of 1936, where unemployed workers brought much-needed attention to their plight during the Great Depression, which had been largely ignored by the government.
The women have set themselves a big task: getting the country to rally behind the NHS and build the campaign needed to save it.
As NHS workers, we believe it is vital that the unions publicly back the People’s March for the NHS and mobilise their members to support it. The march is a chance to demonstrate the unpopularity of the Government’s reforms and the determination of NHS staff to resist them. As such, we have sent this letter to circulate to union branches to appeal for their support for the march.
But the March can also be seen as something more pivotal still: a rallying point for NHS campaigns which have remained fragmented and localised throughout the Government’s term in office. Despite all the cuts, closures and crises brought about by Coalition policy, there has been little nationally organised response to this from either the unions or campaigners.
It’s time for this to change.
Only by uniting the different local campaigns - whether over A&E closures, cancer treatment, GP surgeries, understaffing or whistleblowing - can we build the kind of strong national movement that has any chance of scoring victories, reversing Government policy and saving our NHS.
We need greater coordination and a national focus, uniting our activism and energy across the country.
A first step would be mobilising support for a National Day of Activity on September 6th when the 999 People’s March for the NHS arrives in London: co-ordinated protests around the country for the NHS marking their arrival of the 999 Marchers in London will be a fitting way to support the NHS and celebrate the hard work of this campaign.
But we also need to get organised at a national level. Uniting all the disparate campaigns - community campaigns, union branches and patient groups - into a country-wide “Save The NHS” movement is crucial for mobilising the necessary support to stop the Government.
That’s why we want to organise a national conference of NHS campaigns as soon as possible to unite all our separate efforts into a single, coherent, national movement for the NHS. A national campaign that is able to set monthly days of action to highlight what is happening and keep pressure up on the Government, call on the support of the thousands of NHS campaigners around the country and amplify their activity, and mobilise enough support for a massive Save the NHS demonstration in London prior to the general election. This is the kind of pressure that will be needed to reclaim our NHS.
Victory is possible - if we commit to working together. Tens of thousands of ordinary peoplecampaign for the NHS, over a million work for it, and millions more use its services. If we can mobilise that support in a coordinated manner, nothing can stop us.
Please support the 999 March for the NHS this summer and our call for a September 6th Day of Activity. If you’re interested in helping to organise the movement we need to Save our NHS, get in touch now by emailing nhsactivists[at]gmail.com.