Happy 72nd birthday NHS

Who would have believed that we would still be campaigning in 2020 for our NHS.

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Merril Hammer

By Merril Hammer, Secretary of Hammersmith & Fulham Save Our NHS

When local residents got together in 2012 as the ‘Save our Hospitals’ group to fight for Charing Cross Hospital, none of us would have believed that we would still be campaigning in 2020 for our NHS.

Who can believe that NHS bosses would want to close 600 acute beds in NW London, including downgrading Charing Cross and Ealing Hospitals as major acute hospitals? Hard to imagine how West London would have coped during the Covid-19 outbreak if these hospitals had lost those beds.

In 2018, the Save our Hospitals (SOH) group was still campaigning as we celebrated the 70th birthday of Our NHS. In our celebration leaflet we wrote:

A health service for everyone, publicly funded and provided and free for all, is worth celebrating and defending. Locally we need to:

  • stop the proposed downgrading of Ealing and Charing Cross Hospitals
  • stop the loss of 5-600 acute beds and acute services
  • stop the closure of the blue light A&Es at these hospitals
  • stop threatened cuts to community health services and primary care.

Then, in March 2019, reality hit the decision-makers and they conceded that they could not safely downgrade either Charing Cross or Ealing Hospitals. It was a huge victory for local people and H&F Council.

But not, however, time for campaigners to go home … just a time to change our name to ‘Hammersmith and Fulham Save Our NHS’ (HAFSON) and to keep campaigning against cuts in our health services and for a fully publicly funded and provided health service available for all and free at the point of delivery.

SOH/HAFSON has always been a non-party political campaigning organisation. We’ve been proud to work with the local council since 2014 in saving Charing Cross Hospital and in protecting local health services. Working together for the residents of Hammersmith & Fulham will be crucial as the NHS works to restore health provision in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

And on Saturday 4 July, HAFSON took to the streets (well, to Fulham Palace Road, opposite Charing Cross Hospital) to celebrate the birthday of Our NHS and to thank our wonderful NHS staff who have worked so hard over recent months, who continue to do so and, in so many instances, have sacrificed so much. We mourn for those who lost their lives in working to save ours.

More than 30 H&F residents joined together with local musicians and stilt walkers to party while keeping a safe distance. This included the old and young, born during the NHS and before the NHS, culturally diverse, with passers-by joining us and drivers beeping horns and waving in support. There was a real carnival atmosphere as we all demonstrated our appreciation for Our NHS.

See more pictures from the rally on our Flickr photo gallery

Video: Rally at Charing Cross Hospital celebrating the 72nd birthday of the NHS

We all know the NHS is worth celebrating. And it is heartening to know that, in a recent poll, 76 per cent of those surveyed – an overwhelming majority – want to see an end to privatisation in the health service after the coronavirus crisis has ended.

As NHS founder, Nye Bevan, said:

The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with faith to fight for it.”

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