Sunday, 15 May 2011

Cornwall NHS protest well received

Around 60 people marched from Treliske Hospital to Lemon Quay in Truro yesterday (Saturday) to protest against the cuts at the hospital and to protest against the government's Health and Social Care bill which is currently ‘paused’ in Parliament due to opposition from health professionals and the public.

The demonstration was joined by some workers from the hospital and some members of the general public who have not been in contact with the group before. There were members of the UCU, NUT and Unison trade unions. People brought their children too. Liberal Democrat MP Andrew George came to meet the demonstration and speak to marchers. He said he welcomed the protest and explained that it is part of a growing movement across the country to oppose the privatisation plans in the Health and Social Care bill. He is on the Health Select Committee currently looking at the bill and has been speaking out against the plans for some time. He said if there weren't very significant changes to the bill he would vote against it when it goes to the House of Commons.

Howard Newlove from Cornwall Anti-Cuts Alliance made an excellent speech reminding everyone that the plans for the health service are part of the Government's larger plan to cut back on public services and to hand them over to private companies to make a profit. Marilyn Middlemiss from Save Our NHS (Cornwall) said we had to keep fighting for the NHS or we will lose it. Local BBC 'Spotlight' TV came to cover the protest and followed it all the way into town. There was also a reporter from the West Briton present.

The demonstration helped to lift people's mood, especially with the support from people driving past the march. Drivers were honking it nearly all the way; people were even beeping who were driving in the opposite direction. Marchers were confident enough to go through the town, and were encouraged all the way by the public. One man joined in for a bit and was shouting 'make the bankers pay.'

Members of the NUT and UCU unions took part. They will be holding a meeting this Thursday to discuss joint strike action on 30 June against attacks on public sector pensions. What was achieved yesterday is only the very beginning of the campaign but already awareness has been raised and contacts are being made everywhere. This can feed into making June 30 a stronger fight back and that will give hope and confidence to those who are demoralised. Just doing a protest march won't stop the cuts, but it can energise people and make them feel they are not alone.

When the march reached the Quay nearly everyone who went past was signing the Save Our NHS petition, and over the previous week there had been an amazing response with the petition at Treliske Hospital, West Cornwall Hospital and in Penzance town centre. How is it possible to build resistance and get more beeping people out of their cars and onto the street? It is a long process. But there is reason to be hopeful. The coalition is very shaky, the government don't have a mandate for what they are doing, health professionals are opposed to the bill, and the GP in charge of the 'listening exercise' which is being conducted while the bill is being paused, has said the reforms are unworkable.

This is a fight that can be won, and that would definitely give people the confidence to fight the other cuts. It is very positive that some action has been achieved, the press coverage should be good and it attracted attention and got a VERY positive response.

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