Protesters gather in Sheffield as part of nationwide movement to protect NHS

Written by Safi Bugel

Crowds gathered in Sheffield city centre at the weekend to demand protection for the future of the NHS. 

The protest, which took place outside the Town Hall on Saturday afternoon, was part of a national day of action organised by a coalition of campaign groups and health organisations under the name SOS NHS. 

With over 100 demonstrations across England, Scotland and Wales, people heard from healthcare workers about concerns over increasing privatisation, as well as the need for state funding and fair pay for staff. 

Holly Johnson, a nurse and organiser of the Sheffield demonstration, was among those to address the public. She said: “Resources are being drained in the NHS due to years of deliberate underfunding.”

Johnson added: “Unsurprisingly, the effect of the pandemic on patients, staff and the service has been brutal.”

Last year, the NHS was said to hit “breaking point” by health chiefs, due to record numbers of patients seeking care. 

Meanwhile, the government proposed a 3% pay rise for healthcare staff including nurses, paramedics, consultants and GPs.

The protesters fear that the pay proposal will jeopardise the NHS further, as staff may have to take up work in the private sector to make ends meet. 

Sheffield healthcare worker Alex Brown said: “It is incredibly difficult to recruit and retain staff who are working long hours in high pressure jobs, saving lives and keeping the country running yet earning less than you might do in a coffee shop.” 

Low morale among staff is another concern, said Johnson: “I don’t think it’s any way to treat people who have kept us safe and work so hard, prior and during the pandemic. Staff don’t feel valued.”

SOS NHS has launched an online petition to push the group’s aims further. Specifically, it calls for emergency funding of £20 billion for a fully publicly owned NHS which ensures free healthcare for future generations and ‘proper’ staff payment.

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Written by Safi Bugel

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