Thousands descend on Downing Street in 'save the NHS' demonstration

A crowd of thousands chanting "save the NHS" swamped Downing Street on Saturday to demand more funding for the health service.

The crowd heard a mother's tragic story of her daughter's death after she had been allowed out of psychiatric care too soon.

Marching through central London to draw attention to the NHS funding shortage, people carried placards urging "kick the Tories out", and "more staff, more beds, more funds".

The demonstration, called "NHS in crisis: Fix it now", was organised by the People's Assembly and Health Campaigns Together and began at Gower Street at midday.

The marchers listened as Nicky Romero sobbed while telling the crowd pressures on the mental health service had robbed her of her daughter, Becky.

A coroner found Becky's suicide was linked to NHS failings after the 15-year-old was discharged from a psychiatric ward, despite self-harming on the same day and despite her parents' pleas that she be kept in hospital.

The schoolgirl, who died in July 2017, had been bullied throughout her life and was allowed out of hospital when she needed to remain in care, her mother told the crowds.

"What kind of future will our children have if they can't get the help they need? If the NHS was properly funded my daughter might still be alive."

Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth MP (centre left, shirt and tie) joins the march (Yui Mok/PA)
Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth (centre left, shirt and tie) joins the march (Yui Mok/PA)

The demonstrators marched in wintry conditions, chanting slogans like "keep your hands off our NHS" as they wound toward the political precinct.

They arrived to a speech from Labour's shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth, who labelled this the worst winter the NHS had experienced in its 70-year- history, blaming Government austerity measures.

Actor Ralf Little told the crowd, to cheers, that Britain's NHS was the envy of the world. He had previously told how his mother was saved by NHS treatment for free when she suffered a stroke. He said the quality of the NHS was threatened by under-funding.

"It's a political choice to leave patients sleeping in corridors," he said.

Actor @RalfLittle tells the #FundtheNHS marchers, to cheers: "It's a political choice to leave patients sleeping in corridors"(@PA)

-- Talia Shadwell (@TaliaShadwell) February 3, 2018

Royal college of nurses president Cecilia Anim told the crowds there were 40,000 nursing vacancies around the UK and the shortage was affecting service delivery: "I've never in my 40 years in nursing seen anything like this."

Among the demonstrators on Saturday was Jamie, a disability rights advocate who was attending the march in his wheelchair.

He was injured in a serious car crash 21 years ago: "I owe my life to the NHS," he said.

"There is a tragedy unfolding and the fact is that so many desperate people are traumatised, stigmatised and stressed by work capability testing."

Thousands of people joined in the protest (Yui Mok/PA)
Thousands of people joined in the protest (Yui Mok/PA)

Save Lewisham Hospital campaigner Tamsyn Bacchus said she feared the UK could morph the NHS into a US style user-pays health service.

"I have faith, and so do all these folk here, that it's so important to have the principle of service that is great the point of use so that when you are ill, when your child is running a high fever, when you need the hospital or a doctor you can get them without worrying about having to pay for it"

Read Full Story