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 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 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 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 5.

    Although the NHS is the pride of Britain, and everyone in Britain should be thankful for it, I think that the a majority of people would say it needs improving and its been clear for years and years of government after government throwing money at the NHS, that its not the solution, something else needs to be done and every possible solution annoys at least one group of people

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    I am not sure that the public understand the argument on NHS reforms, It needs to be efficient but the suspicion that a privatised NHS is being introduced by the back door lingers. The whole commissioning issue needs explanation. The idea GPs can run NHS without management support sounds unlikely to me.


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