Saturday 22nd October 2016

First March to Defend Our Hospital and NHS
The Start We Need to Safeguard the Future of the NHS

First March to Defend Our Hospital and NHS

On Saturday October 22, hundreds of people took part in a march and rally in South Shields to defend the acute services at South Tyneside Hospital. This was the first march and rally organised jointly by the people of South Tyneside and a magnificent start to Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign demonstrations. Before midday, several hundred people gathered at Haven Point. The march was made up of a wide section of local people including trade union delegations from the hospital and surrounding area as well as members of a number of political parties and other organisations from the borough. The march was organised and led by the Save South Tyneside Hospitals Campaign (SSTHC) and South Tyneside Public Services Alliance (STPSA). Trade unions supporting the march were the South Tyneside Trade Union Council, Unison, Unite, GMB, PCS and the Westoe Miner Banner Group. A number of people attended from Sunderland, Newcastle and other campaigns to save hospital services.

At 12 noon, the march set off along Ocean Road up through King Street with participants chanting “Our Hospital! Our Acute Services! Our Workplace! Our NHS!” They also demanded that “We decide!” on the future of our health service, and that health care is a right. Many people joined the march along the way including people shopping, pulling trolleys and carrying bags in order to join in. The march was impressive stretching along the whole of King Street. When the march reached South Shields market place it turned left for a rally in the square behind St Hildas church.

More than 400 people gathered in front of the stage to listen the choir “Making Waves” who sang two songs in support of the Junior Doctors and the future of the NHS. We thank everyone for taking part in this first magnificent march and rally to defend the hospital and the NHS. Not only were there hundreds in attendance but we reached another landmark with 10,000 people signing the petition against the downgrading of the hospital and for an alternative direction for our NHS. There is an alternative to this wrecking of our health service and we say again that:

“Health care is a right of all in a modern society and we demand that it must be guaranteed, and no hospital should be placed in deficit!”

Jeremy Corbyn came to South Tyneside a few weeks ago and had said the same things, that health care is a right and not a privilege, that it has to be protected and provided as locally as possible.

The first speaker Emma Lewell Buck MP for South Shields said that “she knew today people would come out and fight for our local hospital”. She said that since March when the merger began, things have moved in South Tyneside at an alarming pace and “decisions are being made in an undemocratic way, underhand and behind closed doors. The merger has now become a take over, we have already lost our stroke unit. What's next, maternity, then A & E, then we've got nothing left.” She said that neither Stephen Hepburn MP or myself were consulted about the closure of our stroke unit. She declared; “How dare they do this to our community!” She remarked that this isn't just our fight. She explained hospitals everywhere in England are now under threat and if we let them take our hospitals, “what are they going to take from us next.” She continued saying that I know the government are placing some councils in impossible situations, but I would say don't make Jeremy Hunt's job easy for him, “fight him, be brave like I know you are, be bold, stand up for our hospital, and stand up for our community. Stay with us and fight to save our hospital.” She said Theresa May has already recently called in local NHS leaders right across the country and said to them; 'I want you to stem protest in your local areas',“well we can see from today that's not working, can't we!” Emma Lewell Buck concluded her speech to loud applause; “I just want to say one thing: Mrs May, we've got a message for you, we're not going anywhere, and you've picked a fight that your not gong to win!”

The next speaker Stephen Hepburn who said; “It makes my heart beat faster when I see so many people across the political spectrum and across the communities here today, from trade unions, from the local community, from party activists and local councillors, so thank you very much.” He pointed out that “we also haven't got to let those local bean-counters and accountants and local management off the hook, who see the NHS not as we see it. ...We must fight that because it is cuts by a thousand cuts, we'll loose the stroke centre today, well loose something else tomorrow and eventually we'll lose the hospital.” Finishing his contribution to loud applause Stephen Hepburn said;“this is a fight that we can win, and we can win it because we are the many and they are the few. It is a privilege to be here to fight for my NHS, your NHS, our NHS and we will win, keep up the fight comrades!”

In further speeches from the trade unions at the rally Linda Hobson Unison deputy convenor brought the solidarity of Unison to the rally and “It's people like you, it is campaigns like this where the community, the trade unions, local politicians all come together. That is what will change the direction of travel.” and she called on the campaign to keep up the fight and keep going.

Karen Reay Unite Regional Secretary said bringing solidarity to the rally said; “we're not alone, this is happening across England, Huddersfield, Calderdale, Lewisham, and many other places. Don't underestimate your power. The power of the collective. Tell families, tell your colleagues and tell your friends. If you haven't already joined a campaign, then do so today, because together we can protect our NHS.”

Colin Smith from the GMB, in bringing solidarity to the rally said it was a fantastic turnout “we have the South Tyneside residents backed up by their MPs and local councillors. We have workers in the NHS who are supported by the constituent trade unions, that's a pretty good alliance in my opinion. That makes us extremely strong......this is just the start. Campaign together and we will win!”

John McCabe, political officer for the Jarrow Constituency Labour Party then addressed the rally and said; “The next time we have a demonstration, I would like you to bring 5 of your pals along as well! Just a quick hello to my old friends in Westoe Colliery, delighted to see you here today.” and he continued; “Lets understand, we are the 5th largest economy in the world. We don't want to have a 3rd World service, and I'm not prepared to have it. So I am personally going to fight until my last ounce of breath to make sure South Tyneside Hospital has the services it deserves and we get the service we deserve.”

David Francis from the Green Party said, “The Green Party is committed to fighting for a publicly funded, publicly provided health service free at the point of use. We have campaigned to end the creeping privatisation of our NHS...we are here today to make our voices heard loud and clear to say that we have the faith to fight for our NHS, and the faith to fight to Save South Tyneside Hospital”.

Norman Hall, Socialist Party said; “The attack on South Tyneside Hospital is not isolated, it is part of the general attack on the National Health Service by the Tories. If they get their way, the NHS will be simply a logo or a kite mark that hangs over the doors of private companies at all sections of what we call the NHS.” and he called for“not more words, not more policies but more action.”

Walter Armstrong, President of Jarrow Conservative Association said he “strongly support those speeches that have said that the people of South Tyneside have a right to health care free at the point of use and I support that to the hilt. We should not be obliged to go to Sunderland, we should still have services here in South Tyneside, and that is why I am here today to give that support.” He also said that he felt “very strongly that if there is a service that is needing to be changed, that there should be full consultation before that change takes place.”

John Whalley, Newcastle Keep Our NHS Public said; “The people of South Shields and South Tyneside have a very strong proud tradition of standing up and being counted when the going gets tough. So some things don't change, and that strength and that unity it shown today. It's brilliant! ” and he said “our NHS and South Tyneside General Hospital are worth standing up for.”

The final speaker Gemma Taylor a Unison area organiser and co-ordinator of the SSTHC and ST PSA concluded the rally. She said how vital the campaign was not only for the people of South Tyneside but also Sunderland. She said the alliance between City Hospitals Sunderland (CHS) and South Tyneside Foundation Trust (STFT) was nothing more than a merger behind closed doors to avoid any consultation. She said the loss of acute services would also make the A & E unviable and downgrade it to a glorified walk-in centre. She said that within 10 days of Ken Bremner taking over as Chief Executive of STFT they announced the “temporary closure” of the award winning acute stroke service “as quickly as possible”. She said then Steve Williamson the former Chief Executive announced he was going to Australia something he never disclosed when he was trying to convince the people of South Tyneside that handing over the Executive of the hospital to Sunderland was the right thing to do. She said we need to use this demonstration to take the campaign to an even higher level and do everything to organise against the downgrading and involve everyone in the fight to defend acute services in South Tyneside and Sunderland and do every thing to contribute to safeguard the NHS across the country.

Gemma Taylor concluded by quoting from Kenny Bell the former deputy convener who had been one of the founders of the Public Service Alliance and had tragically died of cancer. She said, “This is just the start. There is a lot more to do. But together we can make a difference because united we will win!”

Lets take the campaign to a new level. This first march and rally organised by the Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign and the South Tyneside Public Services Alliance had been a resounding success and represents clearly the people emerging as an organised force to save our hospital's acute and other NHS services in South Tyneside. This is the start we all need to fight to safeguard the future of the NHS in South Tyneside and Sunderland, and by doing so we are joining with the fight for a new direction to safeguard the future of the NHS throughout the country.


Full transcripts and MP3 audio of each speech given at the rally

  1. Roger Nettleship - Chair of SSTHC
  2. Emma Lewell-Buck - MP for South Shields
  3. Stephen Hepburn - MP for Jarrow
  4. Linda Hobson - Unison Deputy Convenor for Northern Region
  5. Karen Reay - Unite Regional Secretary
  6. Colin Smith - GMB
  7. John McCabe - Political Officer for Jarrow CLP
  8. David Francis - South Tyneside Green Party
  9. Normal Hall - Socialist Party
  10. Walter Armstrong - President of the Jarrow Conservative Association
  11. John Whalley - Keep Our NHS Public
  12. Gemma Taylor - SSTHC Coordinator and Unison Area Organiser

Roger Nettleship - Chair of SSTHC

Roger Nettleship - Chair of SSTHC

On behalf of the Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign (SSTHC) and South Tyneside Public Service Alliance, I'd like to welcome you to this magnificent rally, our first rally in the campaign to safeguard the future of our hospital.

Back in August, when hundreds of people attended a public meeting organised by Emma Lewell-Buck, we said that this was the start of a campaign, this is your campaign, to save our hospital and let me tell you, not only are there hundreds of people here today, but today we reached 10,000 signatures on the petition that we started. So well done to everybody!

Lets be clear about the context, our hospital is under a very real threat, firstly the government is driving a program of putting state run hospitals in massive deficit through no fault of their own. This is because of the internal market that is being created and also the massive cuts to hospital budgets, which we all know they call cost improvement programs. Then they have launched these secret STPs (Sustainability and Transformation Plans) "Slash Trash and Privatise" the NHS to you and me!

The other context is that the local health leaders are saying that we are scaremongering, and that redesigning services to meet these massive cuts is the path to excellence or at least to defending services. It is not a path to excellence, it's not defending services, it's a path to further rationing of acute services and people having to travel long distances to hospitals that are becoming further overstretched, and that are very hard pressed now, almost everyday in crisis!

A few weeks ago we questioned the South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) at their AGM and got no guarantees that by the end of next year we will have a fully functioning A & E, we got no guarantees that we will have a fully functioning consultant led maternity service, and we definitely will not a have a consultant led stroke unit.

This is no way to run our health service. Our campaign is not only to protect our hospital, but for the alternative to this wrecking that is being taken to our NHS. We say that access to health care is a right in a modern society and demand that it must be guaranteed, and no hospital should be placed in deficit. Jeremy Corbyn came the other week and said the same things as us, that health care is a right and not a privilege, that it has to be protected and provided as locally as possible.

So let me welcome you to this demonstration. We have quite a few speakers, so we will try to make it as short as possible. I'm sure you'll want to hear the broad depth of our campaign. We've got both local MPs, we've got speakers from three trade unions and we got speakers from three of the political parties that make up the campaign.

Download MP3: Roger Nettleship (right click, then select 'Save Link As')


Emma Lewell-Buck - MP for South Shields

Emma Lewell-Buck - MP for South Shields

Hello everyone, I knew today that the people of South Tyneside would come out and fight for our local hospital, but I didn't know that people from right across the North East would come out and fight with us, so thank you so much to all of you for being here today. I also want to give a huge thanks to Roger and Gemma, because without them this campaign would never have got off the ground, they have been absolutely phenomenal. I also want to thank the thousands of people who have worked in our NHS, in our local hospitals, staff past and present, that have served us so tirelessly over the years.

Now we all know that the Tories hate our NHS because it represents absolutely everything that they despise. It's an organisation that meets the needs of everyone, no matter what. Free at the point of delivery based upon clinical need, not ability to pay. In a country that is completely scarred by inequality, this is the one last equal service that we have, and we need to fight to keep it.

It pains me to say this but Jeremy Hunt is now our longest ever serving health secretary. He'll also go down as the worst every health secretary that we've had. But you know what? He's not going to stop until he achieves his dream of completely dismantling our NHS.

Current plans are as Roger said, are to force local areas to come up with 'efficiencies' and then mandate them to make cuts. Once the cuts are there and services are no longer safe, close them [services] down. Then what's left? Our health economy will be replaced with the private sector, and many of us who have not been able to afford health care in the past, will end up going to hospitals like they do in America. Backstreet hospitals where you end up with a poor service. We can't sit back and let them do this.

Since March when the merger began, things have moved in South Tyneside at an alarming pace. Decisions are being made in an undemocratic way, underhand and behind closed doors. The merger has now become a take over, we have already lost our stroke unit. What's next, maternity, then A & E, then we've got nothing left. Not even myself or Stephen were consulted about the closure of our stroke unit.

How dare they do this! How dare they do this to our community! Friends here today, this isn't just our fight! This is our countries fight! Hospitals everywhere in England are now under threat. If we let them take our hospitals, what are they going to take from us next. Ultimately these plans will have to be signed off by local decision makers and local councils. I know the government are placing some councils in impossible situations, but I would say don't make Jeremy Hunt's job easy for him, fight him, be brave like I know you are, be bold, stand up for our hospital, and stand up for our community. Stay with us and fight to save our hospital. Theresa May has already recently called in local NHS leaders right across the country and said to them 'I want you to stem protest in your local areas', well we can see from today that's not working, can't we! I just want to say one thing: Mrs May, we've got a message for you, we're not going anywhere, and you've picked a fight that your not gong to win!

Download MP3: Emma Lewell-Buck (right click, then select 'Save Link As')


Stephen Hepburn - MP for Jarrow

Stephen Hepburn - MP for Jarrow

Thanks Roger, just a few words really because Emma summed up perfectly what we all believe and why were all here today. I'm here with the Jarrow Labour Party today to show solidarity with this campaign, and we'll be with you all the way along the line because it's our hospital as well. It makes my heart beat faster when I see so many people across the political spectrum and across the communities here today, from trade unions, from the local community, from party activists and local councillors, so thank you very much.

But we must remember why were here today, were here because we have a bunch of Tory millionaires, London based ministers that don't give two hoots about the National Health Service in this area. But we also haven't got to let those local bean-counters and accountants and local management off the hook, who see the NHS not as we see it. ...We must fight that because it is cuts by a thousand cuts, we'll loose the stroke centre today, well loose something else tomorrow and eventually we'll lose the hospital. People say in the local management "Don't worry we'll keep it!", well you know as the founder and my great hero of the National Health Service Aneurin Bevan said: "You don't need to look into the crystal ball when you can read the book", and what happened in the Jarrow Day Centre where 26 thousand patients were dumped on local overburdened doctors surgeries in-spite of the promises that we had from local management.

But this is a fight that we can win, and we can win it because we are the many and they are the few. It is a privilege to be here to fight for my NHS, your NHS, our NHS and we will win, keep up the fight comrades!

Download MP3: Stephen Hepburn (right click, then select 'Save Link As')


Linda Hobson - Deputy Convenor for Unison Northern Region

Linda Hobson - Deputy Convenor for Unison Northern Region

Thank you, and it's an absolute honour and a privilege to bring solidarity and support to you all here today on behalf of unison. Lets be clear why we are here today, and we are not here because the NHS has overspent, were not here because NHS staff don't work hard enough, and were not here because local people don't want or don't need their local hospital. We're here because the Tories continually under-fund our NHS, that's the one and only reason why we're here today.

NHS spending has been reduced so dramatically since the Tories took power, and they continually try and tell the lies that they're spending more on our NHS - and it is absolute lies! Those of us who work within the NHS know how overstretched and underfunded it is and know that the staff are working absolutely tirelessly to try and keep up to speed with the service that people deserve.

The new talk now is about 'Sustainability and Transformation Plans' and 'Footprints'. Roger called then "Slash Trash and Privatise", some of us call them "Sticky Toffee Puddings". From a trade union point of view what really gets our goat is that staff are not being engaged in this process, these plans are being drawn up, but there is no transparency, there is no accountability, and even local residents like yourselves are not aloud to know what is really going on, it's all done behind closed doors.

We hear a lot about patient choice. There is a lot of us here who are patients, and we know what our choice is, and it's not about downgrading and downsizing our local hospitals.

Then we've got Theresa May, and she tells us that the Tories are the party of the working people! And she tells us that we don't need trade unions! This is the same Theresa May that turned round and said that there is no more money for our NHS! We've got the autumn statement coming soon, they have an opportunity to turn round and say there is additional funding for the NHS, will they? I doubt it.

It's people like you, it campaigns like this where the community, the trade unions, local politicians all come together. That is what will change the direction of travel. This is the only thing that will change the direction of travel. Otherwise our NHS is on life support. There won't be much left of it before long.

So on behalf of Unison, I just want to say keep up the fight and keep going. We have a little saying in Unison which is very easy to learn: "Trust a Tory with your NHS - Never! Never Trust a Tory with your NHS". It's people like you, It's people like me, it's people like us that will keep this NHS going. Thank you very much.

Download MP3: Linda Hobson (right click, then select 'Save Link As')


Karen Reay - Unite Regional Secretary

Karen Reay - Unite Regional Secretary

Thank you. I now live in Leeds but you can tell from my accent that I am from up here. I can't believe that we've all turned out today to yet again find ourselves having to fight to save our NHS. I worked in the NHS for 20 years before working for the trade union. Every time we get a Tory government this is where we are again. Over and over again fighting them. Remember the words that other speakers have said, there is only one NHS. Every one of us must take the responsibility to keep our NHS, transparent, properly funded, and there for the next generation. It's not just about us, it's about our children and our children's children.

Our NHS was built on social principles, a universal service, publicly owned, publicly funded, with equality of access for everyone. By 2020, the NHS shortfall will be 22 billion pounds. The only way Hunt can think to make up this shortfall is to close services and sell off NHS land and hospitals. And Mr Hunt, we already have a 7 day a week NHS! Ask all of those staff who work 12 hour shifts Saturdays and Sundays.

So now we have the '5 Year Forward View'. Yet another top reorganisation of the NHS. 44 regional 'Footprints', otherwise knows as STPs. 'Transformation Plans', where do they get such rubbish titles? Read between the lines! This is yet again another negative vehicle for further cuts to our local services. More privatisation, a sell out to the private sector, and we know who makes profits out of the private sector don't we!

Attacks on staff terms and conditions, moving away for the national agreements - that we've all fought so hard for - to local bargaining, a race to the bottom! Thatcher tried this in the 90s and she failed. But most concerning ...is the secrecy and lack of transparency. There is little or no scrutiny. No consultation or public involvement.

So what are we looking at? Centralised super hospitals. Local hospitals are closed or downgraded, the end of local acute care. The merger of pathologies across the 'Footprints'. The merger of back office services across 'Foortprints', and be aware that managers have been clearly told to curb pay. This is all to save money and reduce services. Don't be taken in.

So what of our NHS. An organisation that touches all of our lives. An amazing organisation. The envy of so many countries. We have seen previous Tory governments again and again try to destroy our NHS with their selfish ideology. This is probably the last chance that we will have to stand up together and defend our local health services. Once these closures happen, there is no going back. Remember this is about Slashing, Trashing and Privatising our NHS. The only NHS. So join the campaign. Were not alone, this is happening across England, Huddersfield, Calderdale, Lewisham, and many other places. Don't underestimate your power. The power of the collective. Tell families, tell your colleagues and tell your friends. If you haven't already joined a campaign, then do so today, because together we can protect our NHS.

Download MP3: Karen Reay (right click, then select 'Save Link As')


Colin Smith - GMB

Colin Smith - GMB

Well, greetings from the Toon. I'm happy to participate in the campaign to Save South Tyneside Hospital colleagues. It's a fantastic turnout here. Most of what I've been wanting to say has been said by the previous speakers, so I'll just class my contribution as a kind of summary of where we are.

The Tory government intend to cut the resources in the NHS so it makes it unsustainable. They don't use the NHS, most of the millionaires in Westminster, that Stephen Hepburn referred to, use private care anyway. It doesn't matter to them! What matters to us in this area, and particularly to the residents of South Tyneside, is you need a hospital, you need somewhere to go if the elderly or the young, or the hurt or injured need treatment. If this program of cuts goes through you'll have to travel to Sunderland if you injure yourself. We can't have that.

It's privatisation by stealth. This is not overspend as the Unison spokeswoman said earlier. This is about under-sourcing. They say that they have overspent, but they haven't, they are systematically under-resourcing. Jeremy Corbyn at the Prime Ministers questions made the point that they are filling holes through crisis budgets and trying to keep sustainability in various areas rather than fund the NHS properly. Terms like 'Sustainability and Transformation' are just other words for cuts in the budget.

I saw on TV earlier in the week (it was Tyne-Tees News) about a company that central government has contracted to vet hospital consultations [arranged] by GPs. It's a company called 'About Health', Roberta Woods MP was interviewed. A company based in Blackburn are given £10 for every person they vet when the GP wants to refer them to a consultant, and there are half a million patients being subject to this vetting and prevented from getting a consultants appointment. The NHS are actually saying that they have saved a million pounds, but if my maths is correct, then £10 for half a million people is 5 million pounds to a private company where the parliament has not been consulted - nobody has been consulted!

In terms of interested parties, we have the South Tyneside residents backed up by their MPs and local councillors. We have workers in the NHS who are supported by the constituent trade unions, that's a pretty good alliance in my opinion. That makes us extremely strong. You know when the NHS was created in 1948 by Aneurin Bevan, there was a statement made which clearly said 'The NHS will last as long as the people are prepared to fight for it', and that is the message! By sticking together and fighting, and taking the fight to this government. A message for the Westminster bubble: "Stop having a go at Jeremy Corbyn, start having a go at Theresa May".

In terms of moving forward, this is just the start. Campaign together and we will win. Thank you.

Download MP3: Colin Smith (right click, then select 'Save Link As')


John McCabe - Political Officer for Jarrow CLP

John McCabe - Political Officer for Jarrow CLP

Good Afternoon, Thank you very much for coming today. The next time we have a demonstration, I would like you to bring 5 of your pals along as well! Just a quick hello to my old friends in Westoe Colliery, delighted to see you here today. Thank you very much.

The UK, the 5th largest economy in the world deserves a health service which is a little bit better than what we have now. What you try to do when you build a team, is that you instil confidence in them, you train them, you educate them, you try and make them better than what they are. What we have seen over recent years is the destabilisation of a very important service called the NHS.

Brought about by a Labour government in 1948 (so the baby is now 68 year old), and yes we have to move with the times and technology, but the fundamental point of the NHS is that it's free at the point of delivery and it's local! Local services to me mean (I live in Heburn), I'm quite prepared to go to South Tyneside, I have a car! Some of the people I happen to represent can't afford a bus fare! They are going to food banks. So a local service to them is [different], it's very difficult to get to South Tyneside Hospital. To get them through to Sunderland is going to be an impossibility.

We're talking about 27 thousand [people who were] accessing the Walk-in Centre at Palmers. That was a decision that I am still fighting, trying to get it revoked because [the Health Secretary Jeremy] Hunt gave them 6 points on the criteria, 3 still have not been met. I want somebody somewhere to answer to that particular move. They moved that service when they didn't improve the car parking at South Tyneside Hospital. ...They didn't improve GP access, they made it worse by dumping those patients on the local GP surgeries. Of course you know, the false transport promises that were made about increasing and ameliorating the bus services from Heburn and Jarrow into South Tyneside Hospital - an absolute disgrace! I don't believe that any service that they put on now (when we're talking about provision of transport) is gong to help anybody in a poor circumstance. We know from my community that there were thousands of visits, which translates into hundreds of patients - people who are not now seeking any help at hospital and that is because they can't get there.

So what will happen in the NHS is the destabilisation and lack of moral of the people who are working in the service. They are continually undermining them. They're continually getting rid of them. From South Tyneside we have lost Vascular Surgery, Urology, Paediatric Services, and now were talking about the Stoke Services which have gone. It's an absolute disgrace! Along with my fellow Labour councillors and the council and the labour group, I hope that we can fight this off for good.

Lets understand, we are the 5th largest economy in the world. We don't want to have a 3rd World service, and I'm not prepared to have it. So I am personally going to fight until my last ounce of breath to make sure South Tyneside Hospital has the services it deserves and we get the service we deserve. God bless you.

Download MP3: John McCabe (right click, then select 'Save Link As')


David Francis - South Tyneside Green Party

David Francis - South Tyneside Green Party

Thank you Roger and thanks to everybody for coming out today, and of course thank you to all the people who have signed the petition so far. I'm proud to stand here with you today on behalf of South Tyneside Green party, and to say loud and clear that we refuse to accept our health services being placed further out of reach because of this proposed alliance.

It should be considered one of this nations proudest achievements that health care is free and available to all. The NHS belongs to all of us and is the most effective public service we've ever created. Unfortunately successive governments have mismanaged it and have undermined the founding principles of our NHS.

Competition has poisoned the NHS, and privatisation is eroding it bit by bit. According to the department of healths own figures, private companies pocket 18 million pounds a day on the NHS budget - 18 million a day! It's clear that our NHS is not in safe hands and it is our duty to do everything we can to protect it.

The Green Party is committed to fighting for a publicly funded, publicly provided health service free at the point of use. We have campaigned to end the creeping privatisation of our NHS, to repeal the Health and Social Care Act of 2012, and we are committed to ensuring that all people have access to the vital health services that they deserve and need. Access to these services must be based solely on need, not on something as arbitrary as a postcode or what town we happen to live in. If this alliance is allowed to go ahead, access to vital health services will be placed further and further out of reach for the people of South Tyneside, who have already seen the closure of the Walk-in Centre at Jarrow, that many of us fought to try and save. We've heard the promises that were made at that time regarding better public transport links that have all come to nothing. The people of Jarrow and Heburn have found it increasingly difficult to access health care, and now the whole of South Tyneside is being told that we may have to travel as far as Sunderland to access many of our NHS services.

Who will be hit the hardest, the most vulnerable in our communities. Imagine your elderly relative, friends and neighbours having to travel to Sunderland. Multiple bus journeys in each direction for regular care or to visit their loved ones. For those who can't afford to run a car, the only realistic option will be the use taxis. At a time when people are already having to choose between heating and eating, and the Tories are proposing to extend the bedroom tax to pensioners and retired people! Is this really what we want for the people of South Tyneside?

Another concern is the gradual stripping away of services which has already seen our Stoke unit close. The government is behind an NHS England plan to reduce more than ten A & Es in the North East down to four or five. This gradual erosion threatens the continued existence of South Tyneside A & E, and along with that threatens all of our health. We're hear on the same day as the opening of 'The Word' the towns new library facility. Imagine if someone you love was taken seriously ill at the library here today. They would have travel around 3 miles to receive emergency treatment, if that same person was taken ill once this alliance is allowed to go ahead, they would have to travel more than 3 times that distance to Sunderland in order to receive treatment. In emergency cases, every second counts! This alliance could cost lives! According to a study, published in the 'Emergency Medicine Journal', increased distance to A & E is associated with an increased risk of death. An increase of 7 miles (the distance from South Shields Hospital to Sunderland) would lead to a one percent absolute increase in mortality. This alliance could cost lives! Imagine if someone you love was taken seriously ill on a day that Sunderland was playing a home match, or god forbid on Great North Run day, how many vital minutes could tick away as they lay on an ambulance stretcher fighting its way through traffic? Make no mistake this alliance could cost lives!

We're here today to make sure our voices are heard loud and clear, and to say that we will not allow our health, the health of our families and the health of our friends and neighbours to be put at risk in order to make it easier for some bureaucrats to balance a budget sheet. Under this government we have seen time and time again that those at the top of the economic ladder get an easy ride. As the Tories' plan for the NHS goes ahead, we're seeing cuts in tax for the wealthiest and cuts in health care provision for the rest of us. This alliance is unwanted, it's unnecessary, and it's unsafe. At best it will make it far more difficult to access vital services, and at worst it could cost lives!

The NHS was set up to look after the most vulnerable in our communities, and it has been a proud success. Ten years after the NHS was founded, the UKs infant mortality rate had almost halved. I for one want to live in a world where we continue to offer these vital services to anyone in need in a way that is accessible by all.

There are a few signs [placards] today that quote Bevan's famous words:

"The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it".

We are here today to make our voices heard loud and clear to say that we have the faith to fight for our NHS, and the faith to fight to Save South Tyneside Hospital. Thank you.

Download MP3: David Francis (right click, then select 'Save Link As')


Norman Hall - Socialist Party

Norman Hall - Socialist Part

Thank you. I bring greetings and solidarity from the socialist party to this gathering. I must admit that it's about twice the size that I was expecting when I came this morning. Which is an excellent turnout, and excellent start to meet the threat that hangs over South Tyneside Hospital.

The attack on South Tyneside Hospital is not isolated, it is part of the general attack on the National Health Service by the Tories. If they get their way, the NHS will be simply a logo or a kite mark that hangs over the doors of private companies at all sections of what we call the NHS.

When the Jarrow Walk-in Centre was closed, we were told that the 'slack' would be taken up by South Tyneside A & E, by the GPs within the area, and also by the pharmacies. Now what is the truth and what has happened since then? We see the threat hanging over South Tyneside Hospital A & E, we see just in the last two days the government announce that there is going to be a 12 percent cut in the funding to chemists and pharmacies, and it will not be the big chains that close. It will be the small independent pharmacies that don't contribute to the Tory party. We have also seen already what's happening in North Tyneside and North Durham, where direct referrals from GPs to hospitals are being removed. That power is being removed from GPs. No doubt that will be spread across the whole of the country.

All of these things are proof if it was needed, that the NHS is not safe in the Tories' hands, nor is it safe in the hands of these so called 'local' Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs). They are working hand-in-glove with the Tories to actually make these attacks on our services.

While every single local attack needs to be fought tooth and nail, we need to also generalise the fight back against these attacks that are taking place. We need to be part of a national campaign. The Socialist Party agrees one hundred percent with Jeremy Corbyn on the point that private ownership and the profit motive have got no place in the NHS. They have no place in health care whatsoever. We need a true National Health Service, owned by the people, run by the people (that is the people who work in it, and also the people who use it - not just accountants).

On Wednesday Theresa May accused Jeremy Corbyn of wanting to nationalise chemists and pharmacies. Well I say, what's wrong with that? If they are part of the health service, they should be nationalised! Maybe that would solve the problem of the likes of Boots putting all of their profits into Swiss bank accounts rather than paying taxes within Britain - two problems solved in one! We in the Socialist Party would go a bit further, we call for the nationalisation of the big pharmaceutical companies that are leaching millions out of the NHS every single year. Pharmaceutical companies say that they need all this money for research and development (R & D), but according to the 'Independent', the pharmaceutical industry spends twice as much money on marketing as it does on R & D.

But we want a bit more! Not more words, not more policies, what we need is more action! We are calling for a national demonstration to defend the health service, that has the backing of the trade union movement and also groups like this up and down the country, to come together to make it plain that we're not prepared to see the destruction and privatisation of the National Health Service. We also want the unions to be calling for industrial action to fight every job and every service cut that takes place.

Lastly, as a first step - and a real first step to defend the national health service - we are calling for a 24 HOUR GENERAL STRIKE to bring down this Tory government, to really save our National Health Service!

Download MP3: Norman Hall (right click, then select 'Save Link As')


Walter Armstrong - President of the Jarrow Conservative Association

Walter Armstrong - President of the Jarrow Conservative Association

Thank you Roger. I should explain that I'm not a millionaire and I don't come from London. I was born in Jarrow and still live in Jarrow, and as Roger said I am president of the 'Jarrow Conservative Association', but I am just speaking for myself, I have no authority to speak on behalf of the conservative party.

When I became a member of the Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign, I said to my fellow members that they have my one hundred percent support in dealing with local matters, but that does not mean that they have my support on national matters. So I'm going to stick to local matters in this few minutes speech.

I am a strong supporter of what I call the 'National Health Service', I don't abbreviate it to NHS, sorry if that bores anybody. I'm old enough to have actually been a patient at the old Ingham Infirmary in 1946 before the National Health Service, and I have twice received emergency treatment in the National Health Service, once in the R.V.I. in Newcastle and then three years ago in South Tyneside District Hospital. The National Health Service has my full support.

Now turning to the local issues. First of all I strongly support those speeches that have said that the people of South Tyneside have a right to health care free at the point of use and I support that to the hilt. We should not be obliged to go to Sunderland, we should still have services here in South Tyneside, and that is why I am here today to give that support.

If a service is to be provided by South Tyneside District Hospital and it's a good service, it should be kept, dare I say it, it should be 'conserved'! I would also say (and this is where I feel particularly strongly), and not everybody in my own party would say, but I feel very strongly that if there is a service that is needing to be changed, that there should be full consultation before that change takes place.

I am aware that the stroke service will cease on the 4th of December (2016). I gather the theory is that it is a 'temporary' cessation, and that is why consultation hasn't been needed. I don't buy that! Sadly I'm afraid it is a permanent cessation, and I hope that it will not happen again, and we shall register the strongest protest against that lack of consultation.

I accept that there may be individual services where there are serious questions to be raised. If so, those serious questions should be debated thoroughly with full consultation with the people of South Tyneside. Nothing should be done behind the backs of the people of South Tyneside. Thank you very much.

Download MP3: Walter Armstrong (right click, then select 'Save Link As')


John Whalley - Keep Our NHS Public

John Whalley - Keep Our NHS Public

I've got a short speech, I've got a poem but there is no dancing or anything like that! It's great being here, thank you Roger and Gemma. The people of South Shields and South Tyneside have a very strong proud tradition of standing up and being counted when the going gets tough. So some things don't change, and that strength and that unity it shown today. It's brilliant! Some things do change! Across the country our NHS is slowly, steadily, being taken away from us. People do not believe this, but it is happening. It is being eroded, funding is being reduced, services are being cut.

I've been given 3 minutes, I'm not going to give you any more facts about it, we've heard lots of facts about it already. What I'm going to do is I'm going to ask three questions instead.

1) We all know that the UK spends less money per person on health care than the other European countries. We spend less per person than France, Italy and all of the other European countries. So why is this?

Are we fitter and more healthy than our European neighbours, so we don't need as much health care? Or is it that the UK government is not seeing our health as a priority? It is not interested in allocating funding and it is running down the publicly funded health care service. Are we fitter so we don't need the money? Or is the government running down the service?

2) We all know that lots is happening to the NHS, lots is happening here in South Tyneside. Contracting to private businesses, temporary closure of inpatient wards, junior doctors still in ongoing disputes about terms and conditions, trainee nurses have lost their bursaries. So is it coincidence and a fluke that all these things are happening now? Or is it that this has all be joined together, the big picture of running down the health service brought about by the policies of a government that fundamentally does not care about having a professional and public health service?

3) It's fantastic that everyone is here today. It says a lot about South Tyneside. We really appreciate it. It makes a difference. Roger, Gemma and the whole campaign team work really hard. But my final question is this, it's a sensitive one! Will today be enough? Will today be enough to turn things around? If not, if you think that more is needed, what are we going to do next? What are you going to do next? What am I going to do next? It's going to depend upon us!

To recap:

Are we fitter or is the health service being run down? Is it s fluke that all this is happening now, or is the health service being run down? What can we do about it?

I'm a member of 'Keep Our NHS Public', based on Tyneside, and I'm here to offer solidarity and support to South Tyneside. I worked as a registered nurse in the NHS for over 30 years. Believe me, please trust me, our NHS and South Tyneside General Hospital are worth standing up for. The main question is what are we going to do about it!

I'll end on a poem, i'ts quite a brief one by a guy called Michael Rosen who was the UK children's Poet Laureate a few years ago and has written a poem about the NHS. I emailed him yesterday, found his address on the web, and he has given permission for me to read his poem out to you today. Also he sends he personal best wishes to the South Tyneside campaign. So his poem is called "These Are The Hands". It summarises all the expertise in the NHS, and it also gives us a message about what we stand to loose:

These are the hands
That touch us first,
Feel your head,
Find the pulse,
and make the bed.

These are the hands
That tap your back,
Test the skin,
Hold your arm,
And wheel the bin,
Change the bulb,
Fix the drip,
Pour the jug,
Replace your hip.

These are the hands
That fill the bath,
Mop the floor,
Flick the switch,
Sooth the sore,
Burn the swabs,
Give us a jab,
Throw out the sharps,
Design the lab.

These are the hands,
That stop the leeks,
Empty the pan,
Wipe the pipes,
Carry the can,
Clamp the veins,
Make the cast,
Lock the doors,
and touch us last.

Thank you all very much.

Download MP3: John Whalley (right click, then select 'Save Link As')


Gemma Taylor - SSTHC, ST PSA Co-ordinator and Unison Area Organiser

Gemma Taylor - SSTHC, ST-PSA Co-ordinator and Unison Area Organiser

Firstly I would like to congratulate everyone who has joined us today on the march and rally to send a message to government that we are not going to sit back and allow them to dismantle our NHS, our local hospital and our workplace.

The march and rally today was organised by Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign (SSTHC), which is made up of members of the public, trade unions and a range of political parties who's aim is to protect our local hospital from any downgrading of acute and emergency services.

I am the coordinator for the South Tyneside Public Service Alliance here in South Tyneside and in Sunderland. I know how vital this campaign is not only for the people of South Tyneside but also to Sunderland. The SSTHC was formed in May 2016 following the recent announcement that South Tyneside Foundation Trust and City Hospital Sunderland Trust were forming an alliance which is nothing more than a merger behind closed doors to avoid public consultation. The announcement was made that South Tyneside Foundation Trust would deliver more of the rehabilitation, screening and diagnostics, while City Hospital Sunderland would deliver more of the acute and emergency services.

This raises major concerns for the people of South Tyneside, as if you don't have acute services, it will make your A & E none-viable. The concern is that our hospital will not be more than a glorified walk-in centre. Since the campaign was formed, we've worked closely with our council of governors of the trust, [local] councillors and local MPs to protect our much loved acute and emergency services. We supported a public meeting held by Emma Lewell-Buck in August. We created a petition which has ten thousand signatures to date. We entered into dialogue with the trust even though we don't agree with the direction that they are taking our hospital.

Within ten days of the sudden announcement of Ken Bremner becoming the chief executive, they announced the temporary closure of the stoke unit, suddenly declaring it vulnerable after 18 months of using a locum consultant, and they needed to close it as soon as possible. We tried to inform governors that this was their plan, and they used it to break off relations with the campaign, claiming that we are giving the wrong information. Now this award winning unit will be closed to acute stoke patients from the 5th of December. Following on from the other announcements, Steve Williamson the former chief executive of South Tyneside Foundation Trust announced he was going to Australia to take up a chief execute role there. The chair of the trust says that he [Steve Williamson] has personally championed the development and progress of our health alliance with City Hospital Sunderland, and we've found that Steve Williamson has considered the possibility of emigrating to Australia for some time, something he never disclosed. The campaign is concerned at this planned departure, as over recent months the former chief executive has given all kinds of reassurance to the campaign and the people of South Tyneside regarding the future of our health services. Yet he has been trying to leave having only been in post 12 months.

We are fully aware that the government is driving the agenda to sell off our NHS in the next 5 years. We need to use this demonstration to take the campaign to an even higher level, and do everything to organise against the downgrading of South Tyneside Hospital, and to involve everyone in this fight to defend our acute services and A & E, to safeguard our health services in South Tyneside and Sunderland, and contribute to the safe guarding of the NHS across the country.

I would like to end on two things. One to thank everyone who attended today. It sends a clear message that we are not going to sit back and allow our hospital to be downgraded in any shape or form. Finally I would like to end with a fitting quote which I think puts the campaign into perspective. The quote is from the late great Kenny Bell, Deputy Convenor of Unison, who was also one of the founders of the P0ublic Service Alliance and a true leader:

"This is just the start, there is a lot more to do, but together we can make a difference because we united will win".

Thank You.

Download MP3: Gemma Taylor (right click, then select 'Save Link As')