The protest received warm support. Many passersby cheered and joined the protesters, while drivers sounded their horns. Ambulance drivers gave some of the most enthusiastic “Honks for Free Healthcare!” Hospital staff, patients and visitors also came to welcome the protesters and express their deep concerns over the future of the NHS as a result of the recent Bill.
At the end of the demonstration the protesters held a large open meeting at which further protests were planned for the coming days. Friday will see two protests. The first will start at 12pm at the BRI and move to the Conservative Association offices on Westfield Park in Clifton. The second will also begin at the BRI at 4pm and head to the fountains outside the Hippodrome.
On Saturday there will be a further protest at the fountains. This is expected to be much larger. People from all over Bristol and representatives from trade unions and anti-cuts groups will be out on the demonstration.
One protester, Andrew McCarthy, said: “It feels like we have sleepwalked into letting a bill be passed which threatens the very basis of healthcare in the UK. But it’s not too late. Unpopular legislation has been overturned in the past after being made law, Poll Tax, for example. If enough people fight against this bill, we can do the same thing and win back the NHS from the Tories and their greedy friends.”
In the run up to the final votes on the bill on Tuesday medical professionals from all sectors in the NHS expressed strong opposition to the proposed reforms. Yet, despite a high profile “listening exercise”, the bill was ratified by parliament. This opens up the NHS to increased marketisation and imposes expensive structural changes at a time when huge savings are having to be made.
One such change is the move to make GPs responsible for commissioning care. Many GPs believe this will mean they get the blame for the inevitable pain caused by the £40 billion worth of savings George Osborne has demanded that the NHS makes by 2020.
South Bristol GP, Helen Mutch said: "The government has pushed this bill through despite massive opposition from the vast majority of NHS professionals. GPs have voted overwhelmingly against the changes but feel they have no choice but to form commissioning groups or be left with no voice at all. We will now be asked to implement huge cuts in NHS provision and to buy services from profit making private companies who will pick off cheap and easy services. The NHS will be left struggling to look after the chronically sick, complex patients. Our job now is to keep this bill in the news and make sure changes which damage the NHS are challenged. The NHS is the envy of the world. We can't afford to lose it."
Notes to Editors
Demonstrations will be taking place at:
12pm at the BRI on 23/3/12, heading to the Conservative offices at 5 Westfield Park, Bristol, BS6 6LT
4pm at the BRI on 23/3/12
1pm on 24/3/12 at the fountains opposite the hippodrome, St. Augustine’s Parade, Bristol, BS1 4UZ
There will be opportunities for photographs and interviews.
For further information or to arrange an interview, contact: 07722 233779
Original article on IMC Bristol: http://bristol.indymedia.org/article/708092