Horton campaigners joined others from around England at Westminster last week in another demonstration of support for local services, opposition to downgrading of the NHS and supporting a Bill to keep the health service in public ownership.
Banbury’s Keep the Horton General campaigners joined up with Oxford’s Keep Our NHS Public, campaigns from Grantham, Hammersmith, Luton and other areas for the Stop STPs – Support the NHS Reinstatement Bill rally.
The Oxfordshire coachload met up with MPs Margaret Greenwood and Rachel Maskell who had hoped the proposed legislation would get its second reading in the Commons.
However, the Bill was ‘talked out’ by Conservative MPs discussing internships for five hours and the session ran out of time.
Ms Maskell, who introduced the Bill, said: “There are three things people of Banbury can do at this time of crisis. One is to make sure that their MP acts on their behalf. MPs are elected to be a representative of the people. Make sure their MP comes to Westminster to make sure your voice is heard in this place.
“Secondly make sure every detail of your Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) plans is exposed. What it will mean for people in the community - what it will mean for our mums, our friends, for every sick child in the future.
“Thirdly keep it in the media, day in day out - about the reality of what’s happening to our NHS. It is a national scandal and we need every one to get their voice heard.
“This winter we’re expecting a mass crisis as we’re seeing units closing, the ambulance service under unbelievable pressure, A&Es are bursting at the seams and so we are dependent on people speaking out about their local hospitals. It is a perfect storm.”
Ms Greenwood said: “I want to say a massive thank you to everyone who’s come down from Banbury to show support for our health service. You’re doing a brilliant job campaigning.”
Ms Greenwood, who sponsored the Bill, told campaigners not to give up.
“Go to your MPs and ask if they support the Secretary of State for Health having a duty to provide and secure a comprehensive health service in England.
“If they do, that’s great because it indicates they too would be in favour of repealing the Health and Social Care Act (HSCA) 2012 which is what needs to happen.
“Ask if they believe NHS hospitals should give 49 per cent of beds over to private patients. If they don’t it also indicates they’d be in favour of repealing the HSCA.
“We’re at a critical point now; we don’t have much time to save the health service. There will be lots of campaigning around STPs. There are going to be all sorts of closures, reductions in opening times, mergers and so on.
“We know the Tories are taking the NHS off us; they are privatising it. We’ve got a massive battle to fight. We’ve got to get the 2012 Health and Social Care Act repealed.
“We have to get the private sector taken out of the health service. The size of the contracts being awarded to private sector firms is eye-watering and the more this happens the harder it will be to retrieve our health service. And when it’s gone, it will be gone. There won’t be any second chances.
“Go and see councillors as well about provision in the community. It’s hugely important to continue to make the case. The Tories don’t get it yet. There are plenty of Tory MPs who voted for the HSCA who I don’t think actually understand what it is they were voting for and who I think care about their local hospital.
“The legislation they passed is giving a very real threat to those hospitals. And it’s about the public sector ethos too. We’ve seen our doctors and nurses who are really overworked and overstretched. I have constituents who say they so value the service they are getting but they are so concerned about the staff having to work so hard to make up for the shortfall in funding.
“That public sector ethos is so important because it’s about when you go to hospital you know someone’s there to care for you. It’s not just a financial exchange of ‘you buy health - they give you care’. This agenda to privatise the health service has been going on for decades now. The Tories have been pushing it for a very long time. We need to say ‘no we need public services, we want the state to run things actually, we want our doctors and nurses to have proper contracts of work with decent conditions of work and pay.
“We don’t want to see a race to the bottom in terms of pay and terms and conditions. My Bill, which we could not get through today but we do have another date for February 25, that strengthens the employment rights for NHS staff who are currently in a precarious position when their area of work gets taken over by private providers.”
Rachel Maskell said: “The NHS is in meltdown at the moment. It’s falling through our hands so we’ve got to make sure at every opportunity the government hears your voice because without it the NHS will not be here in five years time. That’s the reality. These STPs coming through - £22bn of cuts.
“Just think what that means to your community? Closure of services, the shutting down of rehab, the fact that clinics will not be there in the future. This is your NHS, the one you work in, the one your parents built, the one you want there for your children in the future. And we’ve got to fight every step of the way cos nothing is more important than knowing that our health is secure and with this government I can tell you anything but that is the truth.
“They don’t care about the NHS, they see it as a market and a business opportunity. Well we say ‘no’ to the government because the reality is it is ours and we need to fight to save it, kicking out the market, kicking out the private sector and making sure that in the future the NHS works for us. There are over a million people working in the NHS, day and night, providing amazing care.
“Thank you for taking time to come here and being so passionate and caring about the NHS because every single time you campaign and you step forward, it puts pressure on the government for failing this country over the future of our health.
“Their disinvestment in future health as well. What they are doing to the NHS is a global scandal. The most efficient health service anywhere on our planet.
“Thank you for being patient; you’re all soaked through but that’s how much we all care about our NHS and we’ll all do anything we can in the House of Commons to make sure we save it for you.”
“There are three things people of Banbury can do at this time of crisis. One is to make sure that their MP acts on their behalf. They are elected to be a representative of the people. And make sure their MP comes to Westminster to make sure your voice is heard in this place.
“Secondly make sure every detail of those STP plans is exposed. What it will mean for people in the community. Let’s not talk about the millions of pounds but what it will mean for our mums, our friends, for every sick child in the future.
“The third thing is make sure this is never out of the press. Keep it in the media, day in day out - about the reality of what’s happening to our NHS. It is a national scandal and we need every one to get their voice heard. This winter we’re expecting a mass crisis as we’re seeing units closing, the ambulance service under unbelievable pressure, A&Es are bursting at the seams and so we are dependent on people speaking out about their local hospitals. It is a perfect storm.”