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Posted on 22 April 2013 at 16:04 GMT

Stafford hospital: Massive march in support of NHS

National NHS demo now!

Andy Bentley

Accumulated anger at years of attacks on Stafford hospital and its hard working staff erupted onto the streets of Stafford on Saturday 20 April.

Up to 50,000 people marched to defend Stafford hospital in a town with a population of 63,000. This was probably the biggest demonstration seen in the West Midlands for decades, with protesters filling the long road to Stafford hospital three times over.

Stafford hospital: Massive march in support of NHS, 20.4.13, photo by Paul Callanan

photo by Paul Callanan   (Click to enlarge)

A massive cheer greeted the front line hospital staff banner as it was carried into Market Square to lead the march.

These were some of the workers who have been pilloried for more than four years by the mass media and political leaders of all three parties for their 'failures' at Stafford hospital.

Stafford hospital:  march on 20.4.13, photo by Andy Bentley

Stafford hospital: march on 20.4.13, photo by Andy Bentley   (Click to enlarge)

This march will go down in history as a determined response to the lies and distortions and a massive show of support for the staff at Stafford hospital and the entire NHS itself.

"I don't know if you've been told, Stafford hospital will not fold", sang hundreds of young people as they marched up Weston Road to the hospital. Pensioners marched and applauded.

John from Doxey told the Socialist Party: "Now it's our turn to tell the world that we are proud of Stafford hospital and we will fight to keep it".

Jo from Stafford told us: "What else can we do? It can't end here. I can't wait for the next march!"

Sam who works at the hospital said: "I was kind of dragged here by my mother-in-law but now I feel very proud to be here."

Marching to defend the NHS, Stafford, 20.4.13, photo by Paul Callanan

Marching to defend the NHS, Stafford, 20.4.13, photo by Paul Callanan   (Click to enlarge)

What a magnificent response this demonstration is to the decision by the government's health regulator to put Stafford hospital into administration only five days before.

These unelected butchers say they will consult local people about what services to keep. Saturday's 50,000-strong street 'consultation' told them all they needed to know - save Stafford hospital!

But this massive protest, organised by Save Stafford Hospital, also reflected a growing anger at the government's plans to cut, close or privatise as much of the NHS as they can get away with.

Private health company vultures are circling overhead waiting to swoop on the rich pickings that will become available if the Con-Dems get away with their plans.

Demo against attacks on Stafford hospital, 20.4.13, photo by Paul Callanan

Demo against attacks on Stafford hospital, 20.4.13, photo by Paul Callanan   (Click to enlarge)

Already, under successive Tory, Labour and Con-Dem governments, a big business 'culture' has been pushed down the throats of the NHS resulting in the privatisation of most non-medical and some medical services, with horrific results for both patients and health workers.

Hard working NHS staff are then routinely blamed for any problems that government policies have created.

It also sends out a clear and urgent message to the leaders of the health service unions like Unison, Unite, RCN and others. If in just a few months a movement built from below can get 50,000 to march in Stafford, why can't the health unions with over one million members organise a national weekend demonstration to defend the NHS?

See also 'Mid Staffs hospital scandal - Big business culture kills' online

The threatened cuts show that the Con-Dems want to use the care crisis to undermine and/or cut Staffordshire Hospital forcing people to travel to Walsall, Wolverhampton or Stoke for treatment.

Funny that the exact same measures (removing A&E, maternity, etc) are proposed for west midlands hospitals in Nuneaton (travel to Coventry, Birmingham, even Worcester) and Redditch (travel to Worcester or Birmingham) and, we're sure, elsewhere.

It seems that behind all the health gobbledy-gook-speak, hospitals are under threat of closing, as even large towns are deemed 'unworthy' of local hospitals.

This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 22 April 2013 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.

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