Thousands of health workers march against the Tories

Theo Sharieff, Socialist Party executive committee member

As junior and consultant doctors took historic coordinated strike action, 3,000 members of health unions, including the doctors’ unions BMA and HCSA, Unison, and the Society of Radiographers, gathered in St Peter’s Square in Manchester to protest at the Tory conference.

As the Tories continued to fight amongst themselves and splinter at their conference, an angry rally outside heard leaders of the BMA as well as rank-and-file doctors, determined to defeat the Tories.

The rally came after BMA leaders announced that they were going to pause strike action for four weeks to allow an opportunity to negotiate with the government. However, the union said it was prepared to strike throughout the autumn and the winter if a settlement isn’t reached.

The rally was a fighting display of the determination of junior doctors and consultants to score a victory against the Tory government, and to kick them out of office altogether, to save the NHS.

Socialist Party members spoke to doctors about the need for more unions to coordinate their strikes to bring maximum pressure to defeat the Tories. We also discussed the need for a new political voice for workers and trade unionists, to take on a likely Starmer-led government in defence of the NHS and for inflation-proof pay rises for all workers.

From the picket line: ‘Things can’t carry on as they are’

At Southampton General Hospital, a BMA junior doctor told Nick Chaffey:

“It’s a big step forward to be out with consultants and radiographers. We’ve got a strong mandate to continue with our reballot and public support is still strong. We will keep striking, please keep supporting. We’re a very determined bunch and we’re not going away.”

A radiographer spoke to Ryan Aldred:

“We’re striking for better working conditions and for the ability to provide a better service to patients.

“Right now, we’re not being invested in. There’s a national shortage of staff; the level of service needed far outstrips what we can provide with the staff we have. There is a skills gap developing, as experienced radiographers aren’t being replaced. We’re using old, outdated equipment, which the government has promised to replace but so far hasn’t followed through on. 

“A lot of people are just leaving; I could get better pay in an equivalent position in Lidl and I’d not have patients’ lives in my hands.

“More are joining the Society of Radiographers to get involved in the strike. We haven’t got the outcome we are hoping for yet and we’re prepared to come out again if necessary. I’m proud of my hospital and proud of my department but things can’t carry on the way they are.”