Health campaigners and an MP from South Tyneside took part in a mass march in London to support the NHS
More than 80 members of the Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign group headed to the capital city’s Tavistock Square on Saturday to join thousands of others protesting against cuts to the NHS.
They included Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, unions, frontline NHS staff and children.
Reports suggest up to 250,000 took part in the march.
Unison helped fund the campaign group’s trip through its South Tyneside Local Government and Health branches.
The group was launched last year after it was announced South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust was to form an alliance with City Hospital Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust to create the south of Tyne Healthcare Group.
They fear South Tyneside will end up being left with downgraded services and no A&E department.
Health chiefs deny this.
Gemma Taylor, who is area organiser, said: “I think the march really helped our cause. It was so busy and brilliant to see all the other grass root campaigns from all across the country coming together.
“We marched behind our bright red banner which displayed our campaign’s name and people were stopping us.
“One man I spoke told me about his father who had treatment in South Tyneside - so the hospital meant a lot to him.
“We just wanted to make it clear that healthcare is right. It’s our NHS and they are our hospitals.”
She added: “We felt that our voices were being heard and a number of clinicians, along with Jermey Corbyn, gave very good speeches.”
Also taking part in the event was Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn.
He said “I’ll continue to keep up the fight to save our local hospital and its vital services and I strongly oppose these Tory cuts to our NHS.”
Mr Corbyn urged the demonstrators to “defend the NHS with all of your might”.
In a speech in Parliament Square, he said: “The NHS is in crisis, in crisis because of the underfunding in social care and the people not getting the care and support they need.
“There are those waiting on trolleys and those who are desperate to get into an A&E department waiting hours for treatment.
“It is not the fault of the staff. It is the fault of a Government who have made a political choice.”
*The next meeting of the Save South Tyneside Campaign Group will be held at 6.30pm on Monday, March 20, at Ocean Road Community Centre in South Shields.
All are welcome.