On Monday 10th October, the campaign to save Huddersfield Royal Infirmary, HandsOffHRI, took its case to Downing Street and the Department for Health. In doing so, we linked up with several other campaign groups facing cuts to local hospital services. We decided to protest together and initially gathered our collective forces in Trafalgar Square.
We had contacted health minister Jeremy Hunt beforehand who had insisted that the proposed Huddersfield A&E closure was a ‘local problem’. We invited him up to Huddersfield to see for himself but heard nothing further.
Campaign activists realise that the Tories are behind the £20 billion cuts in health spending. 134,000 signatures were delivered to both the health department and Downing Street.
Groups from Chorley, Grantham, St Heliers, Lewisham, amongst many others, joined us through the streets of Whitehall. The sense of solidarity and unity was electric, with over 300 of us marching together.
This was a midweek protest organised by local activists. Our main chant, “one fight, we all unite”, reflected the anger felt by us all at the proposed huge cuts under the misnamed Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs).
During the protest I met with other key activists to discuss more plans for the fightback.
We came up with the idea of calling a national demonstration in support of the NHS for February 2017. This will be further discussed at the next meeting of Health Campaigns Together.
The time to strike back is now! The entire future of the NHS is now at stake. Campaign groups are springing up everywhere. We desperately need a national plan of action and coordinated resistance. With determination and leadership this struggle can be won. It is now vital that the health trade unions come behind these calls for action and give the lead with a programme of coordinated, escalating action – also linking up with the junior doctors’ dispute.
Our Huddersfield group has come a long way in 10 months. On 20th October we will hear the outcome of our local consultation.
We have pledged to continue the fight until the private sector is expelled from the NHS and proper public funding is returned to all hospital and health services.