On Saturday 21st January, the Labour Party organised a national Campaign Day to raise awareness about the ongoing crisis in the NHS. Major hospital incidents are being reported on an almost daily basis, and the danger to the public is that the sick and vulnerable are being put at risk. However, we hear stories about desperately needed beds, which cannot be freed up, because a lack of Social Care in the community prevents patients being released from hospital - the scandalous ‘bed-blocking’.
Those who study the crisis complain that the NHS is both underfunded and understaffed. The figures speak for themselves: there are now around 3.9 million people on waiting lists and 1.8 million having to wait four or more hours at A&E. At GP surgeries one in four patients have to wait a week or more to see a doctor.
With our own local hospital currently under threat, Southend Labour Party took to the streets to defend the NHS. As Councillor Julian Ware-Lane (Milton Ward) said: “The National Health Service is a vital and much loved institution. It is being undermined by a Government determined to shrink public services.
“There is nothing more important than one’s health, and good access to first class facilities makes for a healthy society. Only Labour properly funds the NHS. You cannot trust the Tories to properly fund it!”
So on Saturday, local Labour activists appeared at multiple locations all over Southend Borough to deliver leaflets door to door, as well as collect signatures on petition sheets and to hand out hundreds of leaflets to Saturday shoppers.
To increase effectiveness Labour Party members joined forces with members of another nationwide organisation, Keep Our NHS Public, under the railway bridge in Southend High Street. Passers-by were stopped and asked if they knew what was happening to the NHS, and they were alerted to the dangers of the proposed changes to Southend Hospital’s A&E Department. There was a constant stream of people queueing to sign the petition sheets, and 430 signatures were collected in two hours.
Campaigning against Government policy can only become more intense as the crisis deepens. Councillor Helen McDonald (Kursaal Ward) made this comment: "The NHS Campaign Day was a culmination of activism that has been taking place in Southend for months now, and it certainly will not be the end of campaigning to save our health care services from being decimated by cuts.
“Many local people will have had direct experience of this: our health care services are at breaking point! More and more people are beginning to speak out, as they come to realise that aspects of the Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) will have a devastating impact. I would encourage all local residents to make their voice heard on these plans by signing the petition and contacting their MP."
The petition can be signed on-line here: