Save Our NHS protest: Sheffield nurse warns planned changes 'will cost lives'

A Sheffield nurse has warned planned changes to the NHS will mean fewer face-to-face appointments and delays in referrals which will ‘cost lives’.
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Holly Johnston made the claims as she addressed crowds gathered outside Sheffield Town Hall on Saturday for what was one of dozens of coordinated SOS for our NHS demonstrations across the country that day demanding urgent action.

Campaigners from Save Our NHS (SONHS) and NHS Workers Say NO are calling for ‘emergency funding’ of £20bn, which they say is the minimum needed to restore beds lost during the pandemic, expand mental health services to meet demand, and clear the backlog of repairs to buildings and equipment.

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Sheffield nurse Holly Johnston addresses an SOS for our NHS rally in the city centre on Saturday, February 26Sheffield nurse Holly Johnston addresses an SOS for our NHS rally in the city centre on Saturday, February 26
Sheffield nurse Holly Johnston addresses an SOS for our NHS rally in the city centre on Saturday, February 26
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They are also demanding ‘fair pay’ for staff to ward off staffing shortages which they say will cost lives, and proper long-term investment in a fully publicly-owned NHS to guarantee free healthcare for future generations.

Addressing the rally in Sheffield, Ms Johnston spoke out against the Health and Care Bill, which is currently passing through parliament, claiming it would have disastrous consequences.

“For patients, the Health and Care Bill means fewer face-to-face appointments, more digital services, faster discharges with no care arranged beforehand, fewer local hospitals, delays in referrals and closures of A&Es across the UK. It will cost lives,” she said.

“The bill does nothing to solve severe understaffing, crises in mental health and social care services and the crumbling NHS hospitals.

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“For staff, the bill means there will be a deregulation of professional standards. It paves the way for driving down pay, terms and conditions, and will mean more staff will be transferred across sites, which will interfere with union organisation, demoralise staff and reduce continuity of care.”

The rally’s organisers said the NHS in Sheffield, like the rest of the country, has suffered from cuts to services and beds, as well as staff shortages, with statistics recently showing there were 64,000 patients on waiting lists at the city’s hospitals.

They said the two-year closure of the Hadfield wing at Northern General Hospital over a fire risk showed the failures of the PFI financing scheme, staff were already switching to the private sector in search of better pay and conditions, and the health service was now threatened with the prospect of private companies being represented in the new organisations being set up to run the NHS through the Health and Care Bill.

One Sheffield nurse, who chose to remain anonymous, said patient safety and conditions for staff were getting worse and the NHS had reached ‘breaking point’.

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The rally came the day after NHS Workers Say NO said the Government’s proposal of a three per cent pay rise for staff was a real-terms pay cut which failed to address the cost-of-living crisis and would leave band 2 staff still earning below the real living wage.

"We need a wage rise that stops people leaving, attracts people into the NHS and improves patient safety and the quality of care,” the group added.

Campaigners have urged people to sign the SOS NHS petition at and to write to their MP to get them to support the demands being made.