THOUSANDS of health workers, patients, union members and activists will join marches nationwide today to demand an end to the NHS crisis.
The government will be urged to provide more beds, staff and funds to ease the problems facing the service.
The NHS in Crisis: Fix it Now event was organised by the People’s Assembly Against Austerity and Health Campaigns Together.
Activists are due to join the lead march through central London from noon before holding an hour-long rally opposite Downing Street, with linked protests also taking place in 54 other towns and cities across England.
People’s Assembly organiser Ramona McCartney said: “The emergency demonstration is in demand of more beds, more staff and more funds for our NHS.
“As we mark the NHS 70th birthday, we have to build a movement that fights to defend it.
“We need to reserve the tide of cuts and privatisation. We need to end pay restraint for NHS staff and we need to build a fully funded, publicly owned and provided NHS and social care service. We need our NHS more than we need the Tory government.”
Shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth, who will be attending, said that the NHS is struggling through its “worst winter on record” when we should be celebrating its 70th year.
He added: “We have a fight on our hands for the future of a universal public NHS.”
Actor Ralf Little recalled how his mother suffered a stroke and was saved by NHS staff while his mother-in-law paid thousands for a routine operation in Florida.
He said: “My mother-in-law spent two nights in hospital, had a minor operation and was discharged two days later. She has excellent insurance so was only presented with a bill for $2,500 (£1,764).
“My mother was rushed to hospital in an ambulance, received expert emergency care, stayed in hospital for two weeks to recover, was treated daily by consultants, physical therapists, occupational therapists and nursing staff, was escorted home in a taxi and checked on three times a day for a further five weeks.”
Earlier this week, Mr Little had escalated his attack on hated Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt by challenging him to a showdown at today’s rally.
He issued an open letter to Mr Hunt that offered a time for them to publicly discuss resources, staff and funding in the NHS.
Late last year, the pair had a row on Twitter during which Mr Little accused Mr Hunt of “knowingly lying to the public.”
In response, Mr Hunt challenged him to provide evidence that he was deliberately trying to mislead, which triggered Mr Little’s offer of a public debate.
Royal College of Nursing president Cecilia Akrisie Anim will address the rally to say that nurses are bearing the brunt of the huge pressures of the NHS.
She is expected to say: “Staff at every level are experiencing burnout and many of our colleagues are turning their back on jobs they love.
“It’s no surprise that nursing staff feel overstretched and undervalued. There are now more than 40,000 nurse vacancies in England alone.
“Seventy years since the formation of the NHS and nurses have always been at the heart of it.
“Urgent action is needed to address the current crisis. If none is taken, it is our patients who will suffer. We will continue to speak out to defend our NHS.”
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady echoed her sentiments by saying: ”Brilliant, dedicated staff have suffered year after year of pay misery and are having to do more with less for less.”
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