Around 5,000 protesters took to the streets of Islington, north London, last Saturday to defend key services under threat at Whittington hospital.
Health bosses are planning to axe the A&E unit at the hospital, and 13 others across the capital, as part of a London-wide plan.
And, according to a report launched last week by the British Medical Association (BMA), a third of hospital beds in London could go as cuts tear apart the health framework at every level.
John Lister produced detailed analysis of the cuts for the BMA. It says there will be, “a wholesale reduction in hospitals, community services and primary care”.
This amounts to cuts of up to £6 billion in the next five years.
Outrage at the plan swelled numbers on the Whittington march, with the large local community presence boosted by local trade unionists.
Rose Hensman was part of a group of midwives who joined the march to highlight the threat to close maternity services at the hospital.
“We provide brilliant specialist services to women from all over north and east London. Lots of our team have been working together for more than 15 years, and we have a lot of experience,” she said. “Now all of that is threatened.”
In a show of unity, colleagues from a range of nearby hospitals joined health workers from the Whittington.
Rita Drobines, a laboratory worker from the Royal Free hospital, came with a delegation from the Unite union.
She told Socialist Worker that it is vital that hospitals are not played off against each other.
“All health workers must stand together,” she said.
Addressing the rally outside the Whittington, Jacky Davis, a doctor at the hospital for over 25 years, told health bosses that their plans to downgrade services would not be tolerated.
“You said you were going to consult local people about your plans,” she said, before pointing to the massive crowd. “Well, this is your local consultation”
Government minister David Lammy was one of several local MPs who joined the march.
He attempted to deflect anger at the cuts away from the government and towards “unelected health bosses”, telling a group of midwives on the protest that he wanted to “sack the managers.”
Many were happy to see such high profile backing for the campaign and hoped that the MPs would back the radical action they felt would be necessary to save services at the Whittington.
“I think we’re going to need a sit-in to stop them closing our A&E,” said local campaigner, Sherice.
“I hope that David Lammy and the others will be with us if we do—and that they help us face down the managers and police.”
Addressing the rally, longstanding doctor and health campaigner Wendy Savage made it clear that the government cannot wash its hands of plans to close A&E departments.
“These cuts have come in the name of ‘rationalisation’,” she said. “That was the language used by Lord Darzi, who was appointed by the government.
“Now he has gone, and the bureaucrats are implementing his plans. “We need a London-wide campaign to stop them,” she said.