NHS activists marched between hospitals to protest at plans to shake-up services.

‘Walk for the NHS’ saw dozens trek more than 10 miles between Halifax and Huddersfield in solidarity with the national Jarrow to London People’s March for the NHS.

Click below to watch demonstrators rally in St George's Square

 

The walk began at Calderdale Royal Hospital, travelling to Huddersfield Royal Infirmary via West Vale, finishing at St George’s Square for a rally where Paul Cooney from Huddersfield Keep Our NHS gave an impassioned speech to protesters.

Mr Cooney told the crowd that health managers from across Calderdale and Kirklees would seriously damage local health services with the proposed cuts.

He said: “I call upon the directors of all these health trusts to stand up to the communities they serve, and tell them openly and honestly, that they are being forced to make financial cuts to the NHS budget.

"They don't do this because their own appointments depend on the approval of appointments commission and they can only get that if they do not open their mouths and criticize the government.”

He added: “The NHS was created at a time of even greater austerity and funding cuts than any of us face today.

“It’s a farce to say the NHS as it stands today is unsustainable.

“It’s sustainable as long as the public will, and more importantly the political will, is there to carry it on.”

Many protesters said they opposed the shake-up of services in Calderdale and Huddersfield, which could see more hospital services moved into the community and the downgrading of Calderdale A&E.

But most said their main fear was the privatisation of the NHS.

David Green, a member of Huddersfield Keep our NHS, said: “I’ve got an incurable cancer. I’m scared of that coming back but I’m even more scared of some private company getting hold of my care.

“I think it’s absolutely essential it stays in public hands.

“It shouldn’t be a commodity to be bought and sold – our health service is too important for that.

“A&E is a basic service and we need it every single town. Halifax needs an A&E and Huddersfield needs an A&E.”

Demonstrators met up with fellow protesters at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary before a rally in St George's Square, Huddersfield
Demonstrators met up with fellow protesters at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary before a rally in St George's Square, Huddersfield

Adrian Cruden, from Dewsbury, said: “An NHS hospital is beginning to represent a franchise operation that might have NHS on the door but when you go inside you go to a variety of stalls for Virgin Healthcare, Vanguard Healthcare and even Specsavers which inevitably are taking money out of the system to pay their shareholders.”

Mr Cruden, said he feared plans to downgrade A&Es in Dewsbury and Halifax would lead to more deaths.

Doctors have said medical outcomes will improve if there are fewer larger specialist emergency departments.

But Mr Cruden added: “Sheffield University did some research which said for every extra six miles you have to take critically sick or injured patients there’s a 1% increase in death rates. We could see an increase in the number of people dying.”

“We have some very deprived areas in Dewsbury that are the lowest economic level in the EU’s marker system.

“You’re asking people who really can’t afford it to travel miles and miles for health care.

“My worry is that they won’t seek it when they need it and that’s to nobody’s good at all.”

Mid Yorkshire NHS Trust has launched a free shuttle bus between Dewsbury and Pinderfields hospitals.

Marsden resident Simon Cedgwsek-jell said: “This idea that this one size fits all, that’s completely wrong.

“What works well in London or Manchester, in which you can consolidate A&E, doesn’t actually work up here.

“We want local solutions for local problems and that’s conspicuously what isn’t happening here.”

Rosemary Hedges, secretary of Calderdale 38 Degrees NHS campaign group, said: “We now have Virgin Healthcare running part of our dermatology service at Calderdale Royal Hospital and they have to make money.

“Virgin shareholders are getting dividends from our NHS and that’s the bottom line. Spare money doesn’t go back into frontline services. We think that’s absolutely outrageous.

“We believe every town should have a full complement of proper health services – that’s what we’re paying for.”

Ken Cheslett, also a member of Calderdale 38 Degrees, said: “I think these plans are a nonsense. It’s not about making services better – the CCGs (clinical commissioning groups) are merely pawns for the government’s privatisation plan.

“This isn’t for clinical reasons, it’s about money.

“The CCGs could defy the government like one did down south, but unfortunately too many of them are just puppets.

“The A&E issue was the shot in the foot we needed, as people were not aware of what was happening until then. It has awakened people.

“This is just a part of the overall issue of the privatisation of the NHS.”