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Posted on 8 February 2016 at 14:23 GMT

Doctors' demonstration 6.2.16, photo by Paul Mattsson

Doctors' demonstration 6.2.16, photo by Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

Defiant junior doctors' demonstration

Sam Gleaden

Junior doctors from across the country demonstrated in London on 6 February. Medics protested against unsafe changes to working hours, and what are effectively pay cuts.

Thousands attended the demonstration - which comes ahead of a planned 24-hour walkout, with emergency care only, on 10 February.

Doctors' demonstration 6.2.16, photo by  Paul Mattsson

Doctors' demonstration 6.2.16, photo by Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

The mood of the demonstration was defiant. Morale was also impressive considering this was the third march of its kind since the dispute began.

Doctors' demonstration 6.2.16, photo by Paul Mattsson

Doctors' demonstration 6.2.16, photo by Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

There were two hours of speakers, followed by a ‘masked march’ on Downing Street from 3pm. In their speeches, NHS workers exposed Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s false claims about the “weekend effect”. His lies are just a cover for cuts. Peer-reviewed studies show Hunt’s explanation for needing more staff at weekends to be nonsense.

Doctors' demonstration 6.2.16, photo by Paul Mattsson

Doctors' demonstration 6.2.16, photo by Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

Doctors correctly see this as part of a wider drive to privatise public services. Speaking to the Socialist, Dr Iona Maxwell from Southampton said: “I think it is definitely a part of the whole picture.

“This is the first step, in a way, to the government privatising the whole NHS. And that’s going to happen all over, to any public service.”

Doctors' demonstration 6.2.16, photo by Paul Mattsson

Doctors' demonstration 6.2.16, photo by Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

Doctors also agreed with the Socialist Party’s call for coordinated action across the NHS - and other public services - to fight austerity. Junior doctor Scott Farenden said: “I support anyone who is feeling oppression on their working conditions at this moment. I was speaking to a police officer today and they are up against it just like we are.”

Doctors' demonstration 6.2.16, photo by Paul Mattsson

Doctors' demonstration 6.2.16, photo by Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

Clearly, if the fight to defend the NHS is going to be successful, workers across the NHS need to coordinate and mobilise. Without mass action, different sections of NHS workers risk becoming isolated.


This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 8 February 2016 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.

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The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

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