NHS campaigners demand change in a series of upcoming protests

Press release on behalf of Keep Our NHS Public and Health Campaigns Together for IMMEDIATE USE

NHS campaigners demand change in a series of upcoming protests

To mark the NHS anniversary and in response to the way the government has handled Covid-19, this weekend (3-5th July) will see several socially distanced protests across the country take place led by NHS staff, unions and campaigners.[1] Action will begin with a respectful socially distanced protest on Friday 3rd July[2] Around 60 NHS staff and campaigners will carry one lantern to represent every 1000 people who have died. They will begin from outside St Thomas’s Hospital and process across Westminster bridge before culminating in a candlelit vigil outside Downing Street where the names of NHS staff who have sadly died will be read out by colleagues. (Please see operational note below.)

On Sunday afternoon UK-wide protests will culminate in an online rally [3] featuring prominent NHS, union and celebrity speakers. This action will be held to commemorate the 72nd anniversary of the NHS, and highlight the way the pandemic has exposed government underfunding of the health service. Campaigners will then set out their demands to the government for a stronger NHS in a Rescue Plan. [4] Through collaborative working,[5] NHS campaigners hope this plan will ensure their voice is heard at every level as the inevitable public debate begins about how we must be better prepared for future likely epidemics, or even a second spike.

Demands will include:

  • more public funding for the NHS,
  • decent pay for all frontline staff,
  • no return to austerity policies,
  • an end to all privatisation in the NHS, and for
  • Social Care to be publicly owned and provided.

Mike Forster, Chair of Health Campaigns Together said:

“Despite the phenomenal efforts of NHS and care staff, COVID-19 has exposed huge problems and gaps in provision which has led to the largest death toll in Europe. Hard questions must be asked and we intend to begin that debate now to help shape future policy direction.  Chronic underfunding of the NHS coupled with low pay have made things far worse; the private sector has also been used to supplement care which has failed to meet local need; and central government has been woefully unprepared.” 

Dr John Puntis, Co-Chair of Keep Our NHS Public and paediatrician said:

“65,000 excess deaths is a national disgrace.  Johnson has let the country down and cannot be forgiven. A refusal to acknowledge mistakes has been compounded by a failure to learn lessons much needed for the ongoing control of coronavirus. With consistently confusing public health messaging, there can be no doubt that numbers of cases will now rise. There is an urgent need to shine a light into the dark recesses of Westminster spin before even more pay the ultimate price. Keep Our NHS Public is therefore holding a candle light vigil outside Downing with one lantern lit to represent each 1,000 dead. We will honour all those who have lost their lives in the pandemic. We also challenge the government to learn from other countries, and move to a public health policy aimed at eliminating new infections rather than waiting for a vaccine or treatment that may never come.”

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Spokespeople are available for broadcast interview. Contact Press officer Samantha Wathen press@keepournhspublic.com or call 07776047472

Notes to editors

Keep Our NHS Public and its sister organisation Health Campaigns Together are UK-wide non-party political NHS campaigning organisations striving for a well-funded and wholly publicly owned/provided NHS.

  1. https://keepournhspublic.com/event/nhs-anniversary-weekend-local-events/
  2. https://www.facebook.com/events/2609122966072125/
  3. https://www.facebook.com/events/286029719418786/ (names of speakers and further details to follow in a separate press release on Friday)
  4. https://keepournhspublic.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Rescue-Plan-A4.pdf
  5. The online event will be co-hosted by Keep Our NHS Public, The People’s Assembly against Austerity, Health Campaigns Together, We Own It and supported by Unite, GMB, Unison, Arise, Labour Assembly Against Austerity, Build Back Better, NHS Support Federation, NEU, NUJ, TUC, Momentum, FBU, NPC, NHS Staff Voices, NIPSA, and the Socialist Health Association.

Operational Note for Candlelit Vigil

Date:Friday 3rd July 2020

Time/Location: 9.30pm Outside St Thomas’ Hospital, process across Westminster Bridge to convene at Downing Street for approx. 9.50pm until 10.30pm

NHS staff (dressed in scrubs) along with around 60 campaigners and members of the public will march in a silent socially distanced way carrying candlelit lanterns from outside St Thomas’s Hospital, across Westminster bridge and convene outside Downing Street, where they will fan out. There will then follow a respectful 20-minute vigil to honour the dead lost to Covid-19. Names of all the NHS and care staff that have passed away will be read out, during which time candles will be extinguished, until one by one, they are all blown out.

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Contact for logistics on the nightTom Griffiths (Campaigns Officer for Keep Our NHS Public) 07828 085645

Interviewees available on the night:

Alia Butt, NHS Psychotherapist
Dr Mona Kamal, Psychiatrist
Iain Wilson, hospital nurse