21 April 2013
Organisers and police for once agreed on the size of the turnout which they both put at 30,000. Stafford ’s population is only just over 61,000!
It took protesters 45 minutes just to leave the town’s Market Square where the march had assembled and many more people joined it on route to a rally outside the hospital.
The hospital was hit by a scandal in the mid to late 2000s when it was accused of presiding over an excessive number of patient deaths due neglect. Mid Staffordshire NHS trust, which runs Stafford hospital, was placed in administration last week.
But if the Tories hoped this would make it easier to win backing for their planned “re-organisation” of Stafford ’s NHS services, yesterday sent a clear signal there is huge popular support for the hospital – and there will be huge anger if the Tories go ahead and close vital services there.
The march was full of home made placards as well as those of the campaign itself. Both Unison and Unite has a presence on the march, and a local Labour party banner was spotted.
But overall the organisers say this that it is a non-political campaign to save the hospital. The local Tory MP, Jeremy Lefroy, was even one of the speakers at the rally! Yet the Health and Social Care Bill that the Tories pushed through parliament last year is nothing else but a deeply political measure that paves the way for the effective dismantling of the NHS.
Like the huge march in Lewisham in South East London early this year, the march in Stafford shows that passing a Bill in parliament is one thing – implementing it and destroying vital local services is another. The potential to defend the NHS is there. We need a mass campaign with the unions planning a central role and involving industrial action to turn that potential into a reality.