None of the ConDem government’s attacks on the welfare state and the public sector have attracted so much anger from the British people as their cuts and proposed privatisation of the NHS.
Cameron was aware of how much the public were committed to the future of the NHS, even posing as the person to save the NHS and promising not to make cuts in this area. Now in power, with thousands of health workers, including nurses and ambulance drivers, set to the lose their jobs, and proposed new legislation threatening to open up all areas of the health service to the lowest bidder and taking away the government’s legal duty to provide a comprehensive health service, Cameron’s promises have turned out to be as reliable as Nick Clegg’s.
It was against this background that several thousand people gathered outside University College Hospital to march on the Department of Health. The people on the march were a mixture of ages from teenagers to pensioners and as well as anti-cuts groups and trades unionists included a large number of health workers in uniforms. IHOOPs were near the front of the march with their banner as were the Save the Whittington Campaign. The route of the march went right through the west end and there was a lot of support from people in the area.
At the end of the march outside the Department of Health in Whitehall there were angry chants directed at Lansley and the whole of the Conservative-led coalition.
The Tory-led government seem to be on the defensive over their plans for the NHS and Nick Clegg has chosen this as his issue to try to put distance between the Lib-Dems and their Tory partners. However with the Tories having received significant funding from the private healthcare industry and one of Cameron’s advisers saying the “The NHS will be shown no mercy and the best time to take advantage of this will be in the next couple of years” the risk is that the current pause is a cosmetic exercise and a few minor changes will be brought in to try to reassure the public. There may be a lot more campaigning to do on this issue; for some it will be in the form of marching, for some petitions, some will protest through their trades unions and for some it will be through peaceful direct action and for many like IHOOPS it will be to do as much as possible to ensure the NHS remains free at point of use to all and is run for patients not profits.