Saturday 26th February 2022

SOS NHS National Day of Action

Campaigners from SSTHC join with campaigners from KONP-Sunderland, trade union activists and others on Seaburn beach, to raise awareness of the destructive Health and Care Bill that is on course to become law during summer 2022

Saturday 26th of February 2022 was a national day of action for people campaigning to save the NHS. The purpose of the action day was to raise awareness about the latest government legislation — The Health and Care Bill 2021 — that will finalise the transformation of our NHS into a US-style Integrated/Accountable Care System if it is enacted later this year.

Over 40 health campaign groups and unions have formed a coalition to demand the following for the NHS:

  • Approve emergency funding of £20-billion to save lives this winter.
  • Invest in a fully publicly owned NHS and guarantee free healthcare for future generations.
  • Pay staff properly: without fair pay, staffing shortages will cost lives.

Around 70 events took place throughout the country, including a rally at Newcastle Monument (co-hosted by Keep Our NHS Public North East and the People's Assembly North East). There was also a rally at Longsands beach in Tynemouth, and a rally at Seaburn beach in Sunderland.

SSTHC took part in both the Newcastle rally and the Sunderland rally on Seaburn Beech, where the NHS heart was drawn in the sand (see top photo), which drew a lot of attention to people on the seafront. There were over 30 people at the Seaburn rally representing organisations such as the Sunderland Trades Union Council. A passing reporter made sure it was publicised well in the local press. Speakers included: Norma Wright ( retired chair of the Joint Health Scrutiny Committee), and there was a message from Kate Osbourne MP (for Jarrow).

Speakers at the SOS NHS Newcastle Monument rally. Left: Roger Nettleship (speaking on behalf of SSTHC). Right: Dr Pam Wortley (speaking on behalf of KONP-Sunderland).

At the Newcastle Monument rally, Roger Nettleship spoke on behalf of our campaign. The following is the full transcript of his speech:

We would like to bring you the support of the activists and supporters of the Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign (SSTHC) to this SOS NHS emergency day of action organised by Keep Our NHS Public North East and North East Peoples Assembly organisations, which we have worked alongside for over 6 years.

The fact that we have to call for emergency funding, for investing in a fully publicly-owned NHS and to pay staff properly, shows how far (particularly the present government and) successive governments have taken the NHS by fragmenting it into competing Trusts and opening it up to increasing privatisation. This whole corporate direction has become not only marked by the loss of vital hospital beds, vital hospital services and staff, but a regime in control that refuses to listen to the public concerns. We are the ones justified in our calls to retain and improve health and social services in our local areas, towns and cities.

This is why it is so vital that the people of every area take up the fight to not only save our health services but to involve everyone in speaking out and becoming ourselves the new public authority, a public authority that those in power are increasingly abandoning to the corporate directors of private and so-called public bodies. The most profitable sectors of the NHS, supplies, diagnostics, elective surgery are already handed over to the health care corporations and even within our own NHS Trusts. Some 40% of elective operations are now done in the private sector.

In South Tyneside vital imaging services are being handed to the private sector under a national and local contract of NHS England and Department of Health to the Alliance Medical Corporation. For a long time minor urgent care has been handed to a private company Vocare at South Tyneside and Sunderland.

SSTHC has fought for 6 years against the downgrading of South Tyneside District Hospital (STDH). Our petition of over 40-thousand was handed in last year to Parliament. Our Judicial Review was finally rejected by the Supreme Court last year after a 3 year fight in the courts. However, this so-called Path to Excellence that closed our full maternity services cannot now sustain the midwife-led unit that they put in its place. As we predicted it has already temporarily closed twice, and has been closed since January 4th.

There is the continued worry for parents with the loss of our 24/7 consultant led children's A&E. Added to this, even though staff have performed with great resolve and professional courage in the pandemic, we now have 45-thousand patients that are on the waiting lists for operations in South Tyneside and Sunderland, partly because of the halt of elective care that was ordered during the pandemic. However, the waiting lists pre-date the pandemic and have been caused primarily by the previous closures of beds and services. Now we are faced with the authorities quoting the pandemic as the justification to further downgrade South Tyneside District Hospital acute services. Now they want to transfer all emergency surgery to Sunderland which will further undermine the A&E at South Tyneside. They are doing this despite the fact that prior to the pandemic (and during it), the A&E at South Tyneside - with its emergency surgery - has played an indispensable role.

Of course we do listen to the need to modernise services, but what is actually happening is that they are not taking account of the concerns of the people, because these changes in health and social care services - and their continued privatisation - are driven by corporate considerations and not human centred considerations. They do not and will not meet the needs of the people for the 21st century. It is not a Path to Excellence as they claim. It is a wrecking of the public healthcare system in the interests replacing it with the anarchy of the private sector, which has always eliminated the right to healthcare.

The necessity is for a public healthcare system that is human-centred. A human-centred system is where health staff and the communities engage to provide health and social care that is accessible to all day and night. For a modern borough like South Tyneside with a growing population (160,000 plus), it is not acceptable that our hospitals do not provide full maternity services, a consultant-led children's A&E, and an A&E with all the other acute services necessary. It is the people who should decide. They are our hospitals, they are our workplaces, and it is our NHS. Health care is as right!

Thank you


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