NHS workers across the North West have taken to the streets today (Saturday) to protest over pay, patient safety and privatisation.
Rallies took place in Manchester, Liverpool, Lancaster, Chester, Chorley and Cumbria, as part of a national day of action on what is the NHS's 73rd birthday, which saw 70 protests across the UK.
Healthcare workers and trade unions are angry about what they call a "derisory" 1% pay rise that was offered earlier this year, and say patient safety is being compromised with a shortage of beds, huge waiting lists, failed PPE contracts and crumbling hospitals.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Keep Our NHS Public said:“The NHS needs safety for patients and for staff. Instead we have had 150,000 deaths, over 850 of which were health and care workers; failed PPE contracts; crumbling hospitals with 17,000 less beds over the last 11 years; waiting lists of over 5 million.
"Instead of real investment we have had corruption and privatisation, such as the £37 billion Serco Test and Trace; billions of pounds wasted on unused private beds; plans to carve up more in the NHS Bill 2021.
“Before Covid there were 100,000 unfilled NHS posts, with predictions by 2030 of 250,000 unfilled posts. The NHS needs staff. Instead, staff were offered a derisory 1%, clapped and then starved of resources after a 20% loss in the real terms value of their pay over the last 11 years.
"Bursaries have been axed for student nurses and the hostile atmosphere has driven out 10,000s desperately needed overseas staff and created racist atmosphere. No wonder exhausted, burnt out staff are leaving."
The protest is backed by Keep Our NHS Public, NHS Workers Say No, Health Campaigns Together, NHS Voices, Nurses United, and trade unionists from unions organising health and social care workers.
One of the protests took place at Manchester's Piccadilly Gardens. Student nurse, Laura Hother was among those taking part, and says staff deserve a 15% pay rise:
Meanwhile in Liverpool, Labour MP Ian Byrne was amongst those speaking:
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said:
“The NHS is not and never will be for sale to the private sector, whether overseas or domestic. The NHS will always be free at the point of use and no one will ever be excluded from treatment because of the cost.
“This year, the government has committed to providing NHS staff with a pay uplift at a time when uplifts in the wider public sector have been paused. In doing so, the government is acknowledging the extraordinary work of NHS staff through the pandemic.”
“The government has done a significant amount of work to improve patient safety and this continues to be a key priority for the NHS. We recognise that more can be done so that treatment and care are always provided to the safest possible standard. This is reflected by the implementation of a ten-year NHS Patient Safety Strategy and the establishment this year of a new patient safety programme board to provide coordination and monitoring of improvements in patient safety and response to harm across the NHS.”