“We can save our NHS, but the time to act is now,” UNISON president Lucia McKeever told a rally in Nottingham during the People’s March for the NHS.
After “paying tribute to Rehana and all of the Darlo Mums who started this initiative”, Ms McKeever urged everyone present to “keep up the pressure on your MP to support the Efford Bill when it comes to Parliament in November.”
That is Clive Efford’s private member’s bill to repeal the Health and Social Care Act that the government has pushed through to privatise the National Health Service.
She noted that, in recent weeks, “we have heard that all new GP contracts will be opened up to private providers” and that “private income is soaring at hospitals [even] as NHS patients are confronted with ever-lengthening queues”.
And the president added that “we also have the largest ever privatisation exercise set to take place in Staffordshire – hidden from public scrutiny, free from patient engagement, and set to net the winning bidders more than a billion pounds.”
Yet as Ms McKeever reminded the rally, this was at the same time that the health secretary had refused even a below-inflation 1% pay rise for all NHS staff, forcing more and more of the workforce nearer and into in-work poverty.
Inspired by the Jarrow Crusade, campaigners left the north east town on 16 August.
Walking up to 20 miles a day, they will reach central London on 6 September. UNISON has been supporting the march as it comes down the country, with members marching alongside the mothers, speaking at rallies and cheering them on.