Hundreds of thousands of people, including leading GPs, marched in London this weekend to protest cuts to NHS funding and ‘increasing privatisation’.
Police estimated some 250,000 people from across the country joined the march from Tavistock Square to Westminster.
According to protest organisers, Government demands for more austerity in the NHS represent a real risk to patient safety. Organisers also claim that sustainability and transformation plans – the 44 blueprints to overhaul the NHS in England – are the Government’s ‘latest instrument of privatisation’.
East London GP and campaigner Dr Jackie Applebee, who attended the demonstration, told Pulse: ‘I am fed up of politicians and the mainstream media trying to make out that the NHS is failing and needs to be reformed. The NHS is not failing, it is massively underfunded.
‘[The new GP contract] shows some small improvements, but the reality is that the Government allocated no extra money to the NHS in the Autumn Statement and show no signs of doing so in the upcoming budget.’
She added: ‘They tell us that there is no money, despite the fact that we are one of the richest countries in the world and that they seem to have managed to find extra money to spend on defence.’
Former Liberal Democrat councillor and Wiltshire GP Dr Helena McKeown also attended the demonstration.
She told Pulse: ‘I am pleased with many of the changes in the new GP contract, such as sickness provision, CQC fee reimbursement and indemnity subsidy, but I worry that it is too little and probably too late.
‘Successive Governments have disinvested in the NHS. Budget cuts are making all NHS workers stressed. Our stress and low morale are badly impacting recruitment, ill health and early retirement.’
At the rally, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called on the Government to improve NHS funding in the new budget, which will be announced later this week.
He said: ‘The Government has found the money to cut taxes on big businesses, cut taxes on the richest families, cut taxes for the speculators and cut taxes for the fat cats – don’t then tell us there’s no more money for our NHS. There is no excuse.’