PROTESTERS gathered at Downing Street yesterday for a “Howl of Noise” demanding that a “massive NHS cuts programme” be scrapped.
The demonstration was held as controversial NHS Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) were due to be signed off by NHS England.
Whistles, vuvzelas and sirens were heard, along with speakers from Disabled People Against Cuts, Bursary or Bust and Hands off Our NHS, at the demonstration.
The plans — under which the NHS has been divided into 44 areas — were drawn up in secret without input from health professionals as £22 billion is set to be slashed from the NHS budget by the end of this Parliament.
However, some local authorities have refused to endorse their area’s STPs.
Wirral Council has become the latest authority to add its name to those opposing plans which would see drastic cuts to local services.
In a a motion agreed on Monday, the council agreed “to write to the Secretary of State for Health and call on the government to withdraw these plans immediately,” demanding urgent discussions on the future of the NHS.
Protest organiser David Bailey, a nurse from Oxford, told the gathering: “This is the final battle and if we don’t defeat the government on the STPs, then the NHS is gone.
“We need to force them back, otherwise the NHS will end up as nothing more than a logo on the side of facilities run by the likes of Virgin and other private companies.”
He urged people to join the Health Campaigns Together and People’s Assembly joint national demonstration in London on March 4.
Health Campaigns Together spokesman John Lister warned that pressure on local authorities to drive through cuts was being “cranked up.”
He said: “We need to apply even greater pressure to defend local services. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.”
NHS England responded by providing a link to an article written in November which claimed the STPs represented “common-sense changes” and said that they depend “on the outcome of conversations that will take place next year with the patients, front-line staff and others in the local community.”