More than 2,000 uniformed healthcare professionals and patients have filled Central Hall Westminster in opposition against the Government’s controversial Health and Social Care Bill.
The All Together for the NHS campaign, organised by the TUC, saw an alliance of union members and high-profile individuals from royal colleges and professional groups rally against the reforms.
Brendan Barber, TUC General Secretary, said in a speech at the rally it was “vital that we make our voice heard” and the Health Bill was the “biggest threat our NHS has ever seen”.
In one of more than 30 speeches, Mr Barber said the campaign aimed to maintain a “publicly-accountable health service, for the values that make our NHS special, and for the ethos of public service itself.”
“I want the message to go out loud and clear that our NHS is not for sale, not today, not tomorrow, and not ever,” he said.
“The Bill will also mean privatisation on a huge scale, with our health service opened up to competition by any willing provider. Private firms will profit by cherry-picking the easiest, most lucrative work – leaving the taxpayer to pick up the tab for everything else. That is simply not acceptable.”
He added that the reforms were “wrong for patients, wrong for the public, and wrong for Britain”.
The Prime Minister, Mr Barber said, also needs to understand that he will pay a “devastating political price” if he presses ahead with the “ill-conceived, reckless, expensive Bill”.
“We will not allow this government to destroy what has taken generations to build,” he insisted.
Other speakers at the rally included the comedian Jo Brand, who used to work as a psychiatric nurse, Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham MP, crossbench Peer Lord Owen, Liberal Democrat MP Andrew George, UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis and BMA Chairman Dr Hamish Meldrum.
Dave Prentis commented that patients will face growing waiting lists if the controversial legislation continues its passage to Royal Assent. “Introducing competition into the NHS will usher in private companies,” he said. “They will put profit before patients. Where you have competition you have winners and losers and it will mean that patients are hit as some hospitals close. Taking the cap off the number of private patients that can be treated by a hospital means that those who can pay will go to the front of the queue.”