Thousands are expected to march in support of Britain’s NHS this week, amid an unprecedented crisis.
The demonstration — organised by SOS NHS — will take place on Saturday in central London, drawing in staff, unions and concerned members of the public.
The NHS is currently experiencing one of the worst crises on record, with 500 patients dying unnecessarily every week due to a “collapse” in emergency health care, according to the Royal College of Emergency Medicine.
Waits of up to 12 hours for an ambulance were documented this winter.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has pledged to improve urgent and emergency care, outlining plans for more beds, ambulances, staff and better social care in December, though pundits have said these words must be met with funding commitments.
Nurses and ambulance drivers have gone on strike in recent months over pay, conditions and concerns about patient safety. Talks are currently ongoing with the government.
“There is a tragedy unfolding before our very eyes,” said Dr Tony O’Sullivan, Co-Chair of Keep Our NHS Public. “The Government is 100% to blame. They must act now to invest properly in the NHS – after 13 years of running it down”.
“In all my years as an NHS doctor I have never seen such a crisis of low morale amongst health staff – pay NHS staff properly now and repair this current crisis,” he added.
“They deserve pay justice and they are fighting not just for themselves but for the entire future of the NHS.”
Speaking in February, Sunak said he would love to give nurses a “massive” pay rise, but instead the money was needed in other areas of the health service.
Nurses’ salaries have declined by as much as 20% since 2010, according to the Royal College of Nursing.
This weekend’s demonstration is taking place a few days before the Spring Budget — where the government outlines its spending plans for the coming year — alongside more industrial action by sector workers, including a strike by junior doctors next week.
“A good shift nowadays for those working in A&E departments is one where someone doesn’t die in our waiting rooms or show up dead on arrival in the back of a delayed ambulance,” said Dr Andrew Meyerson, a Junior Doctor who will march on Saturday.
“That this is happening in the 6th wealthiest country on the planet is an unacceptable failure of government,” he continued.