Campaigners and angry residents gathered in Hastings to show their support for junior doctors today (Saturday, April 16).
Junior doctors are unhappy with new contracts and have gone on a number of strikes in recent months, including at the Conquest Hospital.
Hastings Solidarity helped organise the protest to show support for them with people gathering at the pier before marching through the Old Town, then back to the town centre at around 2pm.
David Francis from the group hoped the demonstration would help to spread the campaign and give people a chance to get involved.
“What we’ve noticed on the picket lines is there’s a lot of support from everyone, all types of vehicles going past honking support up at the Conquest,” he said.
“We organised a march so that everyone can show their support for the junior doctors and for the health service and against the austerity measures of the government by coming here today.”
Junior doctors are in a dispute with health secretary Jeremy Hunt over working longer which they claim will put patients at risk.
Many at the demonstration believed Mr Hunt is trying to privatise the NHS and this is another way to do so, including Rowena Rowling who decided to show her support against the Conservative government’s plans.
“This Tory government is totally ideological, always has been, it wants to undo the postwar settlement, it wants to privatise the NHS, and this attack on junior doctors is all part of back-door privatisation. So I have to be here,” she said.
“I’ve recently got to the point where I just decided I had to become more politically active because I couldn’t take not being politically active anymore – so I was pushed to it.”
By two o’clock many people from all backgrounds were gathered by the pier ready to march through town, with a few police officers taking notice too.
Seventeen-year-old Bexhill College student Jade Lythgoe said she was representing the young population, many of whom agree with the protestors but do nothing about it.
“I’m here because of the contracts being proposed by Jeremy Hunt and I just don’t think it’s acceptable like a load of other people,” she said.
“And it’s also the NHS being privatised, you just can’t privatise health because then it becomes profit instead of people and it’s just ridiculous really.”
“I know it’s just not right and I’m here because I’m not just going to sit around and do nothing about it, I’ve got to do something, and if everyone does then it gets sorted out.
“I noticed there’s a lot more people who aren’t students or they’re more in the world of work so I thought it’s better to represent the students because I know a lot of people who have this opinion but they don’t want to come out and say it, I don’t know why but I’m representing.”
Angry couple Janet and John Crosby in their 60s supported the demonstrators as they have had nothing but excellent care from the NHS and they want to protect it against Mr Hunt’s ‘direct threat’.
“My wife had cancer two years ago, I had a heart attack 11 years ago, and without the NHS here we probably wouldn’t have survived,” he said.
“They’re softening up the hospital system the way they softened the Post Office and then they eventually got rid of it and I think Jeremy Hunt has an agenda that is to privatise as much as possible and I just don’t think it would be in people’s best interests.
“We have friends in America who are undergoing cancer treatment and even thought they’ve got health cover and they’re paying it, they’re not getting everything paid. I’ve got one friend who’s very ill and she’s got about $20,000 worth of debt already and she’s not even through the treatment.
“Here, my wife got exemplary treatment.”
Mr Francis also works at the Conquest and supported his colleagues attempts to fight the new contracts.
“I work for the health service, I’m not a doctor, I’m much lower down than that, but it’s two things,” he said.
“One, it’s unfair. It makes the health service weaker and it’s an attack on the health service which affects anyone who uses or works in the health service.
“Doctors have traditionally been a fairly well-organised and influential group and if they can impose things like this on doctors, then the rest of us haven’t got a hope in hell.
“And they’re workers that we work with and it’s about patient safety as well so as a citizen of the community and as an NHS worker, I’m very much behind it.”
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