Over 2,000 NHS workers marched through the streets of Leeds on Saturday to campaign against what they see as a growing threat of privatisation of the health service.
The campaign group Keep Our NHS Public organised the march around the city centre, which was supported by junior doctors who are embattled in a row over pay and conditions.
Gilda Peterson, one of the organisers, praised the response of people and suggested that there is an increasing groundswell of public opinion in favour of the protest.
“It was one of the biggest demonstrations we’ve seen in Leeds for quite a few years. People clapped as we went by and number of people joined us – even the police said they were surprised and pleased for us that so many people took part.”
Keep Our NHS Public is opposed to what it believes to be the privatisation by stealth of the NHS.
Central to this problem, according to Keep Our NHS Public, is a lack of financial support from the government in particular.
An offshoot of this is that the organisation believes that staff in the health service are becoming demoralised, battling against issues that are ultimately insurmountable.
Campaigners from across Yorkshire, including Airedale, Huddersfield, Wakefield, Dewsbury, Sheffield and Harrogate joined protestors, as well as representative from trade unions and the Labour and Green parties.
This indicated a cross-party consensus on the issue, and was indicative of the depth of feeling among protesters.
It is increasingly clear that the NHS faces some massive issues in the coming years as the health service struggles with an ensuing economic crisis.
With the NHS massively underfunded even by the admission of the government, and demand for health services ever greater, a perfect storm is looming on the horizon.
This is compounded by the fact that there is genuine dissatisfaction among NHS workers at present, with junior doctors feeling that the government is behaving unreasonably and in intransigent fashion towards them.
The government has already indicated that the NHS should find efficiency savings in excess of £20 billion by the end of the decade.
The Department of Health released a statement defending current government policy.
“There should never be a choice between providing safe care – our top priority – and balancing the books, which is why we’re investing £10bn to fund the NHS’s own plan for the future, including nearly £4bn next year. Despite being busy, the NHS continues to perform well – last year the service performed 1.6m more operations and treated 2,100 more people every day within the four hour A&E target compared to 2010.”