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Posted on 29 May 2012 at 12:04 GMT

Revolt in the Tories' back yard

Over 2,000 people turned out in Northallerton for a march and rally on Saturday 26 May, to protest about the proposed reduction of children's and maternity services at the Friarage hospital.

Overnight paediatric care and complicated births would be transferred to the James Cook hospital in Middlesbrough some 22 miles away.

The rally marked the culmination of many months of consultations where hundreds of people turned up to meetings in village halls to voice their concerns to the South Tees NHS Trust.

The rally was addressed by Tory MP, William Hague, who was well off message, calling for a NHS that provided specialist services that local people want and where they want them; not what NHS bosses impose on them.

It is likely that his intervention will result in some fudge where the Friarage will retain the bulk of the services under threat. The South Tees Trust will no doubt instead make cuts in less controversial areas.

Northallerton is one of the most affluent towns in England and at the heart of Tory North Yorkshire. The campaign to keep services at the Friarage gained wide support.

However, it was tightly controlled by Tory and 'Independent' councillors who have kept it 'non political'.

The Socialist Party was able to inject some politics into the event. Hundreds of 'Hands Off Our NHS' leaflets were distributed at the rally.

These leaflets pointed out that the transfer of some maternity and children's services from the Friarage was not unique to Northallerton and that the concentration of specialist services to larger hospitals was happening at many places across the country.

The main motive behind this is the 20 billion 'savings' by 2015 imposed on the NHS by the Tory government.

That is a 5% cut each year. The reductions in services would also get worse if the Health and Social Care Act is implemented.

The NHS was not safe in the hands of the Tories and Lib Dems, nor in Labour's either because they started the cuts, privatisations and centralisations.

The leaflets were well received. Especially from one elderly lady who asked for a bundle to give to her friends. "Yes you are right" she said, "I told them all it was to do with money!"

Alan Docherty, Teesside Socialist Party

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