Heavy rain did nothing to dampen the spirits of NHS staff and others who gathered outside Homerton Hospital to voice their opposition to the government’s proposed healthcare reforms as part of the Hands around the Homerton event on July 16.
As the 50-strong group, including a GP and a hospital consultant, congregated on a small piece of parkland next to the hospital, they were roused by a band who played some upbeat numbers. Persevering through the driving rain the protestors marched in single file over to the main hospital building and gathered on the forecourt. They were soon asked to move by one of the nurses from the hospital and readily complied.
Alongside local residents there were a significant number of Homerton Hospital staff, who are concerned about how the reforms could impede their ability to provide quality care for their patients.
Jonathon Tomlinson, a local GP at the Lawson practice in Hoxton said: “The healthcare proposals would be an absolute disaster for the NHS. Personally, I will probably be fine but I’m more concerned about what it means for my patients. There’ll be a conflict of interest because GPs will have to buy in services for their patients, so the focus won’t be on quality of care, but on cost.”
He added: “This isn’t party political, because Labour was starting to introduce similar measures at the end of their last government term, it’s the state versus the people and the unions are squabbling so there isn’t a strong opposition to the government’s plans.”
Local resident Christina Chauvenet, 25, said she had attended the protest because: “I started thinking about how much I and other people depend on the NHS for my care. It’s particularly vital in Hackney where there’s a lot of vulnerable people”.
Several local healthcare professionals addressed the group including Jonathon Tomlinson and Natasha Arnold – a consultant at Homerton Hospital. Arnold said: “Competition is fundamentally the problem. When money and cost come into it, costs will become the priority, not the care of the public.”
Following the speeches the protestors joined hands and formed a human chain around the building. The demonstration was prompted to disperse by a hospital employee who asked the group to leave the hospital premises.
Whilst there is no specific threat to Homerton Hospital for the foreseeable future, the demonstrators are worried that these proposed reforms will place cost-cutting over care.
Tomlinson summed up this mood and warned against apathy: “We’re sailing towards a waterfall and people won’t notice until we’re over the edge.”/ 18 July, 2011