The NHS's 72nd birthday was marked up and down the country this weekend by Keep Our NHS Public groups.
Taking place during the Covid19 pandemic meant that many demonstrations took a serious tone. From a cavalcade in Leeds through to lantern-lit march ending at 10 Downing Street, the message was clear: clapping was not enough.
Sixty-five lanterns were carried by protestors from St Thomas' Hospital in South East London, over Westminster Bridge to Downing Street. Keep Our NHS Public joined up with campaigners from The People's Assembly Against Austerity, We Own It and Health Campaigns together for the evening protest, with each lantern representing one thousand people who have died in the UK during this pandemic due to the Government's botched response.
Upon arrival at Downing Street NHS staff read out the names of colleagues who had died from Covid19, to date.
NHS Staff Voices member Alia Butt spoke to Sky News outside Downing Street on 3 July:
"It's not the time to be opening pubs at 6am"
NHS staff have marched to Downing St in protest of the government's handling of the #COVID19 pandemic.
— SkyNews (@SkyNews) July 3, 2020
Local protestors assembled outside hospitals and other central sites to celebrate the NHS's achievements since its inception, but also to make it clear the Government's response to the Covid19 pandemic was not good enough.
Local activism around strikes and pay protests in Tower Hamlets and Lewisham were supported with demonstrations on 3 July. In Tower Hamlets the rally marked the first day of an official strike of thousands of council employees against an attempt to sack them en masse and reinstate them on worse conditions.
Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign flagged their demands for better pay for staff following a furore over cleaners not being paid in March.
In Southampton campaigners paid tribute to our health service and expressing solidarity with health workers against privatisation, cuts, under-funding and unsafe conditions, in a variety of public sites around the city. A nearby protest in Romsey hospital travelled from the town centre to the hospital.
Three separate protests took place in Manchester over the weekend, with demonstrations taking place outside Manchester Royal Infirmary, Salford Royal Infirmary and a walk-in centre in Prestwich.
A march through Newcastle Town Centre saw local Keep Our NHS Public groups joining up with other local activist groups.
Keep Our NHS Public Merseyside took part in a bicycle cavalcade alongside save Liverpool Women’s Hospital to the Royal Liverpool and Aintree Hospitals.
Campaigner Lesley Mahmood said:
"We want to thank doctors, nurses, midwives, all health professionals, the cleaners, porters, caterers, admin, everyone who works in the NHS. We are facing a terrible virus. The only way we can eliminate it is to test, trace, isolate and support people. We want decent sick pay, and we don’t want people punished for absence. We want the NHS for all our babies, the mothers, our sisters, our lovers, our children. We want women to be able to go through a pregnancy, or choose to end a pregnancy. The NHS was given to us by the war generation, and it’s our best legacy. We want to defend the NHS, fully fund it, improve it, and improve all of our lives. Don’t let the Tories rob us of our rightful inheritance, the NHS."
Derbyshire Save Our NHS also held a rally at the end of a motorcade, to say Happy Birthday to the NHS, as did Leeds Keep Our NHS Public.
Huddersfield Keep Our NHS Public organised a rally with speakers from the council, a former MP and Build Back Better campaign alongside Keep Our NHS public activists.
As a gift to mark the NHS' birthday and thank staff for their work, 370 bars of home made 'Soap for Heroes' were donated.
Hammersmith and Fulham Save Our NHS managed to create a carnival atmosphere as they celebrated the NHS's 72nd birthday.
Secretary Merril Hammer said:
"Musicians and stilt walkers helped to attract the attention of passers by who joined us in celebrating Our NHS. It was like a carnival. We kept at a safe distance from each other – but still had a really good time. Passers-by enjoyed the birthday bash; cars, vans, trucks and buses beeped their horns in support of the NHS and pedestrians stopped to take pictures. Thanks to musicians, Gregory and Simba, and our two stilt walkers Ella and Anze! It was great fun!!"
Banners were dropped to mark the occasion in Nottinghamshire off a bridge over the A52 and off Westminster Bridge in Lambeth.
Haringey Keep Our NHS Public asked supporters to share a selfie of them celebrating the NHS's birthday on social media, to raise awareness of the need to fund and support the NHS better.
Further protests took place in Bristol and South Tyneside, and other Keep Our NHS Public local groups.
If you work for or within the NHS you can find out more about our NHS Staff Voices campaign group here.