NHS reform protesters block Westminster Bridge

Protesters on Westminster Bridge The UK Uncut protest came ahead of a debate in the Lords

Demonstrators have blocked Westminster Bridge in central London in protest over proposed changes to the NHS.

The UK Uncut protest came ahead of a Health and Social Care Bill debate in the House of Lords on Tuesday. Those at the demo want Tory peers to reject it.

The BBC's Ben Ando said about 2,000 activists and health workers took part in Block the Bridge, Block the Bill. Organisers said over 3,000 attended.

The bridge was closed to traffic for the event, which ended about 16:30 BST.

The bridge, normally one of London's busiest, links St Thomas's hospital on the southern bank with the Houses of Parliament.

Protesters dressed as medics unfurled a banner saying "Save our NHS" as part of Sunday's sit-down protest.

Our correspondent said large numbers were NHS workers, and many wore hospital scrubs. Others wore bandages with fake blood.

He said disruption had been "minimal" and numbers at the protest were lower than expected.

Mark Arnold, a UK Uncut spokesman, said the protest had been effective and there was a "happy, party atmosphere" among the health workers, doctors and trade union members who participated.

The Met Police said the main demonstration passed off peacefully but tweeted that a group of individuals not associated with UK Uncut had headed towards Lambeth Bridge at about 18:00 BST.

The 64 individuals were contained on the bridge to enable officers to ask them to "remove disguises" they were wearing, a spokesman said. They were released an hour later.

'Threat' to NHS

Prior to the demonstration, UK Uncut said: "If we want to save our NHS we need to shout as loud as we can.

"No-one voted for this bill, but together we can stop it."

And Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union, said: "The government's Health and Social Care Bill represents the gravest threat to the NHS, one of our nation's finest achievements, since its foundation."

He said he hoped the protest would "send an important message of support to the brilliant doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers who work day in, day out to make our health service the envy of the world, and an equally important message of opposition to a Tory-led Government trying to unpick all of this".

The government said the reforms in the bill had been consulted on and would give patients and doctors more choice, while encouraging the NHS to focus on results.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    I think that the NHS is in need of reform, and to achieve this cost saving reform, we need to employ an army of consultants and buisness advisers, and create three extra layers of management, so that the blue sky thinking can take place without the interference of the people who are treating patients, And we all want a knighthood when we leave in 5 years having seperated the root from the branch

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Don't do demonstrations. All I would suggest, is that you go to 38degrees.org.uk for more information on The Health and Social Bill.

    Furthermore, this same organisation also supported the dismay and fight, by the public, to stop the selling off our woodlands.

    As far as I can tell, they have no political affiliation. If you care about anything government do, just visit the site and look around.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    This article should state that the UK government "reforms" of the NHS affect only England. The UK government CAN only affect England on health, education, law and order, local govt and all devolved issues.

    The author of this article needs to read the BBC College of Journalism's own guidelines about reporting devolved issues.
    We are NOT all in this together. BBC as British government mouthpiece.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    The BBC should be ashamed of the way it delayed reporting on this demonstration - and instead flooded us with news of the third marriage of a over-the-hill musician. These are the new news values are they?

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Everything needs improving, it's the nature of things but messing with the NHS is way down the list of priorities for new legislation that was with no mandate.
    The money saved from reforming the banking system, simply by Nationalisation if nothing else can be agreed will more than pay for the improvements needed to the NHS.
    The Bankers/ high finance/ private sector screwed up, reform these first.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    If you don't like the sound of this bill, google 38 degrees. There's a lot more of us out there and we are making our voices heard. There are plenty of ways to reduce costs in the NHS without back-door privitisation. Unless of course you want to see our NHS vanish to be replaced by a system like they have in the US where if you can't pay you don't get treated, or you don't get the best treatment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Have worked in the NHS 26 years so have seen quite a lot of change. Not all good, but not all bad. Many in the NHS who resist change don't really know what's best for the organisation. They just hate any change. Many outside the NHS have no idea about the system; misplaced passion. Little sympathy for these protesters. Some were wearing scrubs. Will they be returned or just add to more NHS waste?

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    These cuts aren't needed, they're being used as a smoke screen to privatise the NHS even further. This study shows the NHS is good value for money:


    maybe its the endless list of managers that need cutting.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    The NHS is in desperate need of reform. I has needed reform for years.

    However, repeated "reforms" from both major parties, none of which were piloted, have left it as an administrative mess. Now they want to add an even greater layer of administrative confusion.

    Power to the GPs? It just means another bunch of people who think that they will be really good at running the NHS having their go.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    a) Calling people an idiot isn't polite or helpful, even if you disagree with them. You know very well what the OP means.
    b) There is a reason large numbers of people are not voting, and instead of telling people to cheer up and stop moaning when inflation is rife/pay is frozen or cut, should start looking WHY people are refusing to vote. Look at Liam Fox! Coulson et al In this together?

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    So the NHS needs reform ? It is internationally regarded as the most effective and efficient health service in the world. Other systems made up of insurance funded services provided by multiple private providers are hugely expensive and less effective. Why would we want to change to a system like that. Oh and the lack of BBC coverage - shameful !!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    With so many vested interests among the senior NHS management, it's pretty obvious they will protest about anything that threatens their cash cow.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    It saddens me deeply to see the NHS treated in this fashion. Its already part privatised, with the rest heading in the same direction as soon as the Limp / Tory coalition have the courage to destroy it.

    Anyone with an iota of social awareness must oppose this "reform" with every legal tool at their disposal. We need to do it quickly too, as it seems we are currently sleepwalking into disaster.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Why were the police tweeting? I really do not want an American style police force trying to manipulate their media coverage.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    I have to thank Polly Toynbee for educating me about this nasty Bill - it is indeed being slid in - there was no mention of it whatsoever in any manifesto. As the Government is only in power on a coalition basis, we deserve better than this act of vandalism. Of course the NHS can be improved - but having services compulsory being put through tenders will be an expensive and unnecessary nightmare

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Pathetic. No Cuts and we'll end up like Greece.
    The NHS needs reform not stasis.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Was it just me who heard George Osborne and Dave Cameron say over and over again that if they were to gain power, we'd have an age of austerity?

    We knew what they were promising, it's needed and they were democratically chosen as the largest party.

    Why do these people think their opinions matter over millions of taxpayers sick of seeing their money squandered?

  • Comment number 10.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    As a son of a retired hospital doctor, having dozens of medics in the immediate family, and having seen how the NHS works when working on some large IT projects. THE NHS is over subscribed, costly and a burden to society going ahead. No one lives for ever but everyone wants. We are all born, some live past day one, but everyone dies.Stop looking to live to 100

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    This Governments NHS Bill has been slipped in and voted for under the radar of the average person. If they understood the far reaching implications, more people would be standing up and voicing their protest.

    This is a shocking piece of ill thought out legislation that will end the NHS as we know it and make a lot of money for a lot of people *possibly* linked to a Tory MP you know...


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