The local demonstration to save Lewisham hospital, in south London, on 26 January was far bigger than many national demonstrations. 25,000 people, mostly workers, marched to protest against the closure of the accident and emergency, maternity and complex and emergency surgery services - substantially more than marched on the last mass demonstration at the end of November.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt will make a decision by 1 February and probably make an announcement soon after. Despite the turnout today, it is very likely he will decide for closure.
This is a test case - both for the Tories, in their drive to lay waste to the NHS, and for campaigns to defend the health service.
In general, people on the demonstration were very open to discussion about the way forward for the struggle. We sold something like 300 copies of Solidarity 271, with its coverage of the Lewisham campaign and health workers' struggles to defend provision in Greece and Spain.
The Save Lewisham A&E campaign held a social after the demo, where discussion continued for several hours.
Workers' Liberty members and supporters are heavily involved in the fight to save Lewisham hospital. In the coming weeks we will be arguing for:
1. Continuing a high profile community campaign of demonstrations, stunts and public activity to keep up the pressure;
2. Clear demands about the solution: the government writing off "Private Finance Initiative" debt, return of all assets to full public ownership and replacement of PFI by direct public funding, and adequate public funds to rebuild the NHS more generally (the campaign needs to strengthen its links to other anti-cuts/closure campaigns);
3. A reorientation towards helping the workers at Lewisham hospital become more confident and organised, so they can begin to discuss and experiment about the kind of action, such as refusing to run down services and work-ins, necessary to prevent the closure.
• If you would like to work with us in the Lewisham hospital campaign, get in touch: email@example.com or 07904 944 771.
• For the most recent issue of the Lewisham Hospital Worker bulletin click here.