More than 100,000 people are expected to take to the streets in London on June 30 to celebrate the NHS’ achievements and founding principles as the health service marks its 70th anniversary.
The #OurNHS70 march, organised by Health Campaigns Together, the People’s Assembly and health unions including Unite, is also being supported by the Daily Mirror.
The march will start in Central London near Oxford Circus and will wind its way to Downing Street, where protesters will make key demands of the government – to properly fund and staff the health service; to maintain a publicly funded NHS that’s free for all; to support health workers; and to provide world class services for every community.
The build-up to the #OurNHS70 march and rally on June 30 comes as prime minister Theresa May announced on Sunday (June 17) that the government would be giving the NHS an additional £20bn in funding, amounting to only a 3 per cent increase in overall health spending.
The independent think tank Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has estimated that the NHS would need at the very least a 4 per cent uplift in funding to resolve the health service’s most pressing problems, after a decade of squeezed finances that have led to long waiting times and chronic staff shortages.
The shortfall in NHS funding prompted more than 100 health staff, including GPs, consultants, nurses, junior doctors and others to write an open letter to the prime minister.
“Less than 4% means the NHS will continue to deteriorate and our patients continue to suffer,” the letter, which was also signed by Doctors in Unite members, read.
“The NHS needed a funding increase that would ensure that never again will we see the scenes in our hospitals and A&Es of needless suffering and tragic deaths. Of patients waiting on hospital trolleys unable to get a bed or of ambulances stacked in queues unable to hand over their patients.”
#OurNHS70 march organisers are encouraging all who attend on the day to dress in the style of any of the eight decades the NHS has existed – there will be themed areas with matching music where marchers can gather.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said that nearly “everyone has a reason to thank the NHS,” as she encouraged all to attend the demo on June 30.
“The best way to thank the health service for taking care of us is to demand that the government take better care of it,” she said.
Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail agreed.
“2018 is truly a year to celebrate as a milestone for the NHS – seven decades of a remarkable universal health service that is a shining example of human accomplishment for people around the globe,” she said.
“But as we celebrate, we must also remind ourselves that the challenges facing our NHS are unprecedented,” Cartmail added. “If it is to go on another 70 years, we have to fight for it – for proper funding, proper staff pay and for its ultimate, sacrosanct principle: healthcare for all, free at the point of use.”
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey likewise encouraged all to attend June’s demo.
“It’s the 70th birthday of the greatest thing we’ve ever achieved in our lifetime, here in Britain — the National Health Service,” he said. “We’re demonstrating not only to celebrate the magnificent work that has happened all those years but to send a clear message to this Tory government that we’re not going to have them take it away from us. It’s our NHS and let get out on the streets and defend it.”