By Rob Winkel
Up to 200 people assembled outside the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel Tuesday evening to oppose the planned cuts of up to £78 million to the Barts Health NHS Trust.
Local campaigners, trade unionists and health workers attended the demonstration. Santiago Modina, a 28 year old nurse at the Royal London hospital, was concerned about the continued privatisation and cuts to the NHS: “In the media, it’s not being given the coverage it deserves; the public don’t know what’s going on.”
Staff at the Barts Health Trust have already seen cuts to their wages. Modina explained: “They change your job description so that you’re going to be doing the same work for less pay.
“The nursing assistants are already on peanuts for the job they do […] they’re being cut to the tune of around £2,000 annually.
“When you do things like this, it affects the morale. That in turn affects productivity. Productivity in this case is related to patient care […] it’s not something you can play games with.”
Rosie Zaman, 41, a driving instructor living in Tower Hamlets, said that specialist nurses “haven’t had the pay rise that they were promised, so it’s just discouraging people to become nurses or even stay in their jobs.”
A spokeswoman from the Department of Health recently told media organisations that halting pay rises “will help increase quality for patients and help us realise our vision of an affordable seven-day service.” Like many at the protest, Zaman rejected this claim: “It’s all surfacing that [the government] are not making a difference; they’re not really listening to their people.”
Shahanara Ali, 40, a health visitor at the East London foundation trust said that “we just can’t allow them to cut the services”. Her concern is that “slowly, slowly, it’s chipping away, bit by bit. The NHS is not going to suddenly disappear. [The cuts are] kind of slowly diminishing it.”
Health workers and others made speeches to the crowds gathered outside. Abdul Rashid, a mental health worker in the community, pointed to the new 17-storey building at the Royal London Hospital and said: “The two top floors are still empty because there is no money”. Janine Booth from the Rail, Maritime and Transport union told crowds that “this isn’t just a fight for health workers alone, this is a fight for all public service workers.”
The protest was organised by a number of groups including Save our NHS East London, Tower Hamlets Keep our NHS Public and We are Waltham Forest – Save our NHS.