On 18 May 2013 a very lively and vocal march was held in central London ending with a rally, outside the gates of Downing Street.
The march was called jointly by Unite and Keep our NHS Public, following the enactment of the Health and Social Care Act, paving the way for the wholesale commissioning of NHS services to private sector providers. This act, together with the continuing announcements of closures of accident and emergency services at hospitals all over London, is leading towards a crisis in healthcare provision in London and the rest of England.
As a result of this impending crisis it was felt both by Unite and health campaigners across London that a London-wide march needed to be called as the start of a unified and national campaign to stop the privatisation and sell-off of healthcare provision to private companies, whose only interest in peoples' health is how much profit can be extracted from their healthcare.
The Labour party, TUC and all the major unions opposed to cuts and privatisation supported the march. After assembling on the South Bank, around 8,000 people marched from Waterloo to Downing Street. The march was dominated by a sea of red Unite caps and flags, with a very successful mobilisation of Unite members noticeable.
The march ended at the gates of Downing Street, where a letter protesting at the sell-off of our NHS services was handed in. This was followed by a rally with speakers ranging from Labour MPs and health campaigners to a very rousing speech from Unite’s London and Eastern regional secretary Pete Kavanagh calling on people to take action to defend our NHS.
The event was just the start of a campaign being built by health activists and Unite over the coming months. The aim is to build a national unified campaign of all NHS campaigns and trade unions with Unite leading the way from the front. This will show once again that Unite is the fighting back union in the NHS.