On Sat 28th March people from around Yorkshire will be marching through Leeds City Centre with one message for politicians of all parties: “SAVE THE NHS”. They want an end to privatisation, an end to cost driven cuts and closures, and a significant increase in funding.
80% of England’s hospitals are already in financial deficit and struggling to cope with rising demand. They are expected to reduce hospital admissions and send patients into ‘the community’ while the share of the health budget for GPs has been cut, spending on social care slashed by 20%, and the number of district nurses halved in the last ten years (1). This year, in an unprecedented move, ‘NHS Providers’ representing hospital, community, ambulance, and mental health trusts stood up to government pressure and rejected the proposed “efficiency savings” for 2015-16, pointing out that they would put the care of patients at risk (2).
Meanwhile, the Health And Social Care Act 2012, which itself cost £3bn to implement, is forcing commissioning bodies to put new health care contracts out to public tender, a wasteful and costly process which is increasing the administration costs of the NHS by at least £4.5bn a year.
Although the UK spends the least of the G7 countries on health care and has fewer hospital beds than almost any other country in the western world, it was ranked top in the 2014 Commonwealth Fund study of 11 nations (3). The USA which has a privatised and insurance based health care system spent twice as much as other countries per head and won the prize for worst access and worst health outcomes.
Chair of Leeds Hospital Alert, Beatrice Rogers, had polio as a child before Bevan set up the health service in 1948. Commenting on the current re-forms, Beatrice declared: “We must not allow a return to pre July 5th 1948 when only the rich could afford health care. It is our NHS. We must make crystal clear at the election that the NHS IS “NOT FOR SALE.”
We invite as many people as possible to assemble on Saturday 28th March at 11.30 am in Victoria Gardens (in front of Leeds Art Gallery) to march round town led by a samba band and stand up for our NHS. Costumes, homemade placards, banners, balloons, and musical instruments are all very welcome!