Saturday 4th February 2017

NORTH EAST MARCH & RALLY for #ourNHS

First March to Defend Our Hospital and NHS

On Saturday February 4th, people from many parts of the northern region gathered in Newcastle to take part in a march and rally to fight for the future of the NHS against deliberate plans to make it unsustainable and thereby justify massive service cuts in the guise of so-called 'Sustainability and Transformation Plans'.

The hidden agenda behind such plans is to replace our NHS with a privatised service in which people will be increasingly forced to pay, and public NHS services become even harder to access locally.

It was against this background that hundreds took to the streets of Newcastle in a high-profile show of support for the NHS, marching through the town centre to rally at Grey's Monument.

The Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign took part fully in this demonstration, demanding on behalf of the people of South Tyneside that free, fully comprehensive, locally provided health care be restored as a Right and not a privileged for those that can afford it. Members of the campaign spoke at the rally including: Emma Lewell-Buck MP (for South Shields), David Donoghue and Roger Nettleship (see below).

The event was organised by North East Keep Our NHS Public and chaired by John Whalley (KONP), and Tony Downling from The North East People's Assembly. You can watch each of the talks separately here:

Selected Speeches Transcribed and Abridged

David Donoghue (Branch Chair for Unite the Union South of Tyne)

David Donoghue (Branch Chair for Unite the Union South of Tyne)

If you are seriously ill, where do you turn? If your child becomes unwell in the night, where do you go? Who looks after us when were all ill? Who cares for our loved ones? Where are we all born? What other part of our society do we all connect with in the same way? Our NHS touches the lives of each and every one of us, our loved ones, our children, our families and our friends. The NHS is unparalleled, unique and amazing. There is nothing else like it and it saves countless lives each and every day. The NHS is available in our communities, free, local for us where an when we need it. It's a true cradle to grave service, which has improved the health of our nation like nothing else. Everyone in Britain gets health care and not just the rich.

But, and there is a big but, our NHS is dying! Since 2010 (and the election of the conservatives), the NHS has been fighting for its very survival. As the NHS has been squeezed, patient satisfaction has fell year on year, waiting times are increasing, wards are closing and not enough staff are being trained. The crisis is entirely of the Conservatives' making, as they cut budgets and destroy the training schemes and services that we so desperately need.

The Conservatives tell us that the NHS is unsustainable, and this is simply not true. This is part of the great lie of the modern age. Spending on health in England is due to fall back to pre-1995 levels by 2020. The UK spends less on health than most other G7 nations. We can afford world class health care under the NHS model, we are a relatively rich nation. The government has evaded its responsibility to deliver care. The government has starved the NHS of funding, the government has unrealistically increased the expectations of the public, the government has vilified staff and promoted private sector involvement, and the very same government is now setting our NHS up to fail.

The austerity programme proved what the Conservatives think of each and every one of us. None of us caused the financial melt down, but they are hell-bent on making sure that each and everyone of us pay for it. We live in a society where the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and more and more of us struggle to get by each day. And now we are facing a future where the sick will get sicker, the elderly will be neglected, and people will not be able to afford to travel to their local hospitals to access comprehensive quality health care. We are told time and again that we can't afford health and social care in this country, and that is it unsustainable. This is utter rubbish, of course these things are unsustainable when we are facing secret cuts on a staggering scale.

The NHS budget is being cut in real term by over £20 billion a year. The conservatives have created a perfect storm, a crisis in health and social care, they chose this path, they have demanded the budget cuts, they have demonstrated their contempt for ordinary people and our health and well being. Now in a desperate attempt to cover the predicted vast-black-whole in NHS finances, the government have announced a new initiative called 'Sustainability and Transformation Plans'. Massive centralisation, service reconfigurations and 20 million pounds of cuts, means that our local care is under real threat in England.

Our NHS is in danger of being destroyed by a government who's political ideology has never ever supported it. There is no evidence base to support the STP programme, nor any political mandate for these plans which do little more than hide a process which will deliver less care in fewer places with less quality.

Is this the future any of us want? Based on lies and half truths, a society that works for the wealthy and not the majority. A society which will openly fail. Unite [the Union] believes that the NHS should be properly funded, free at the point of need, with comprehensive services delivered locally. This isn't a big ask, this is what we've always had for nearly 70 years in this country. We do not believe that any government has the right to sacrifice the health service and the future well being of every one of us.

This is a fight for the right to be able to access high quality comprehensive local care, which is free for you and there when you need it most. This is a fight for me, for you, and for every single one of us. You must play your part, or we'll be left with a basic health service, which will be no good for anybody. Now, more than ever before, we all need to come together to save what is probably the greatest social achievement of our modern age. We need you, our NHS needs you, and our society needs you. We are the campaigners, we are the fighters, we have untapped potential and we are the people who will change our world, we are the folk who are prepared to fight to save our NHS, we are the folk with the faith to fight to save our communities, to fight for the right to have a world class socialist health service. Join us, together we will fight, and what's more my friends, together we will win.


Roger Nettleship (Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign)

Roger Nettleship (Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign)

The NTWND STP [like all STPs] is not a sustainable financial plan. It is the largest cut to the NHS budget ever seen in its history, and is a deliberate attempt to make the NHS unsustainable so that it can be privatised and people charged for care.

The NTWND STP will not transform our NHS into a safe health system for patients. It is full of policy objectives and models of care that have not been tested first and are not funded. It cuts vital acute services from our hospitals as well as community and mental heath services.

Regardless of what happens with these transformation plans, our campaign in South Tyneside will go ahead because the two trusts - South Tyneside District Hospital and Sunderland Foundation Trust - have come together in a so-called alliance to implement a local response plan, the so-called path to excellence has been set in motion to downgrade our acute and emergency services in South Tyneside before any of these STPs have been agreed.

Lets be clear, this response plan - which is part of the STP - is not a path to excellence but a path to disaster as more and more of our acute services are closed at STH, and an ever increasing burden is placed on overstretched services at Sunderland [where even these services will be increasingly closed down under the STP plans for our region].

In fact the so-called alliance of STFT and CHS is declared a model in the NTWND STP to be rolled out across the region therefore there is an added importance to oppose the downgrading of services at hospitals like STH.

This is the fate of many hospitals over the past few years such as Hexham General where they now do not have A&E and consultant led maternity services. These services desperately need to be restored.

Over recent months the SSTHC has brought people together from trade unions in the hospital, people in the community, MPs, councillors and political parties into a campaign where the people decide, working out their aims and actions regardless of political views. The campaign in South Tyneside has reached the stage that 30 or so people meet every two weeks and we had a first march and rally last year through the town where hundreds took part showing that the campaign is a very organised force.

We must make our movement to safeguard the NHS unstoppable. We must prevent the ruling elite from depriving us of the power to decide our future. In our campaign on South Tyneside, one of our demands, our main demand you could say, is that: access to health care is a right and must be guaranteed in a modern society. So this question is posed for the whole movement to solve.

Firstly, we must put forward that people should renew the assertion that health care is a Right, as it was raised in 1948. In the current conditions, this Right is increasingly being denied by the powers that be.

The second point is that the right to health care must be guaranteed, and the peoples claim on the economy must be satisfied. How is our claim on the economy to be satisfied? We know the ruling elite say the NHS is a "cost and a burden" because "people are getting older" and other such insults and disinformation.

What they refuse to recognise is that the health and social care system, health workers and clinicians add value to the economy by providing the people with a healthy life, enabling us all to contribute to: science, manufacturing, service industries, culture, and other human endeavours throughout our lives and in retirement.

The cost and burden is that successive governments refuse to make proper the claims for providing these public services on the massive value that the big companies - the owners of social wealth - extract from the economy.

As I said at the beginning, this whole direction that is characterised in the STPs will be a disaster for our NHS, for South Tyneside, and for Sunderland hospitals. It will be also a disaster for the North and the whole of England.

What this means is that a victory in saving each of our hospitals, our acute services, mental health services, and our community services, is a victory for everyone. Let us all build campaigns to safeguard the future of the NHS and fight to reverse the whole direction of cuts to public health services, marketisation and privatisation of the NHS.

Lets make our claims on the economy and what is ours. Say NO to the STPs and block them from being implemented. Say NO to the closure of acute, social and mental health services at the centre of our communities.


Emma Lewell-Buck MP (South Shields)

Emma Lewell-Buck MP (South Shields)

Good afternoon friends. I was hoping for a massive turnout here today fighting for out NHS, and Newcastle, you haven't disappointed. Just like the thousands of dedicated and hard working NHS staff past and present. I pay tribute to every single one of you here today. The Tories hate the NHS because it represents everything they despise. It's an organisation that meets the needs of everyone no matter what, and it's free at the point of delivery based on clinical need not ability to pay. In a country that's scarred by inequality, this is one of the last equal services that we have left, and we have to fight to keep it.

As painful as this is to say, Jeremy Hunt is now the longest ever serving Health Secretary, but he will also go down as the worst health secretary this country has ever known if he achieves his dream of dismantling our NHS for once and for all.

Like many hospitals up and down the country, my own in South Tyneside is facing an uncertain future due to the Tories' STP plans. Plans that they are pretending will improve our NHS, but are actually based upon cuts. Once the cuts are no longer safe, they will close down services and leave the NHS to be replaced with the private sector - I say, not on our watch!

I know in South Shields things have been moving at an alarming pace, decisions being made in an undemocratic and underhand way behind closed doors, we have already lost our stroke unit without any consultation, what are we going to loose next, maternity, our A & E? How dare they do this to my community! But friends, if this can happen in our hospital, it can happen in yours too. Hospitals across the north east are being asked to make savings of a staggering £641 million. You cannot do this without putting lives at risk.

This is not just our fight though, this is our countries fight, because hospitals everywhere are under threat. If we let them take our hospitals what will they take from us next.

Ultimately these plans are going to be signed off by local health decision makers and local councils. I know the government has placed them in an impossible situation, but do not make Jeremy Hunts job easier for him, be brave, be bold, stand up for your community, do not carry out his plans, stay with all of us and fight for our NHS.

Last year Theresa May called in NHS leaders right across the county and asked them to stop the tide of local protests. We've got a message for you Mrs May:

'You're an unelected Prime Minister, you have no mandate for any of these cuts, and this is one fight that you are damn sure to loose, because we're not going anywhere'