CORRECTION: an earlier version of this article stated that a protest would happen outside the BRI from 11am. This has now been cancelled and the article updated accordingly.
NHS staff will protest in central Bristol this weekend as they seek emergency government funding to safeguard patients and staff in NHS hospitals hit by cuts and underfunding.
From 12pm this Saturday, February 26, demonstrators will gather at The Fountain Steps, St Augustine’s Parade to hear speeches and sign a petition supporting fair pay for nurses.
Tone Horwood, from Bristol and a member of the executive committee of campaign group Keep Our NHS Public, said: ‘NHS staff and their patients are facing the hardest winter ever in health and social care. This day of action, aptly called SOS NHS has been called as we must act now to safeguard services for patients and service users, boost staff morale and tackle the mental health crisis among health and care staff.
‘Emergency funds must be secured now to avert disaster.’
Saturday’s protest is part of a national day of action organised by SOS NHS, a coalition of campaign groups including Keep Our NHS Public, People’s Assembly Against Austerity, Unite the Union, GMB, We Own It, NHS Support Federation, and NHS Workers Say No, who have previously campaigned for increased pay in Bristol.
SOS NHS have three demands: emergency funding of £20bn for the NHS, investment in a fully publicly owned NHS, and pay justice for NHS staff.
Former GP Dr Charlotte Paterson from Clifton said: ‘Over the last decade NHS workers have suffered a real-pay cut of 14%. They are burnt out from overwork yet their pay claim is again being refused.
‘We are asking the public who are suffering on disastrous NHS waiting lists to support NHS workers’ pay claims and direct their anger at the Conservative governments that have deliberately and intentionally run down the NHS since 2010.’
The protest comes against the backdrop of the Health and Social Care Bill, which is currently at Report Stage in Parliament. The Bill would give the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care control over the overall organisation of the NHS, including creating new trusts, and removes accountability in contract tendering, a particular concern after revelations around the awarding of billion-pound Covid contracts to friends of Tory ministers during the pandemic.
It would also see local healthcare systems managed by Integrated Care Boards (ICB) systems with a chair approved by the Health Secretary. Critics fear that ICBs will lead to health care being reserved only for those most in need.
Feature image is from an NHS Workers Say No demo last June. Image: James Ward.