Hundreds of NHS workers descend on capital in support of health service strikes

Hundreds of NHS workers descended on the capital to demand more funding for the health service.

Activists began rallying opposite Warren Street Tube station in central London at 1pm on Saturday afternoon.

Photos from the scene showed protesters holding placards saying “end the NHS crisis” and “strike to save the NHS”.

On Monday England’s junior doctors will begin a three-day strike to call for the pay increases they say are needed to improve staff recruitment and retention.

Demonstrators attend a protest rally in support of Britain's National Health Service (PA)
Demonstrators attend a protest rally in support of Britain's National Health Service (PA)

It comes amid record wait times for operations, A&E care, 999 call-outs and GP and dentist appointments.

Speakers at the weekend march include the British Medical Association’s council chair Professor Philip Banfield, cross-party MPs and leaders of trade unions Unite, Unison and GMB.

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Dr Tony O’Sullivan, founder of the SOS NHS coalition, which organised the march, said: “There is a tragedy unfolding before our very eyes.

“500 avoidable deaths every week on the NHS emergency pathway. The government is 100% to blame.

“I have never seen such a crisis of low morale amongst health staff – pay NHS staff properly now and repair this current crisis.”

It comes after the Health Secretary invited junior doctors for pay talks in an attempt to avert strikes next week.

Steve Barclay said he had proposed negotiations “on the same basis other health unions accepted”, after planned industrial action by tens of thousands of key workers was suspended when the Government agreed to discuss pay for this year.

Unions representing ambulance workers, physiotherapists, nurses and midwives have been in talks with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) since Tuesday.

But the discussions have not involved junior doctors in the British Medical Association (BMA), who are still due to walk out for 72 hours on Monday.

Mr Barclay tweeted on Friday night: “I’ve written to @BMA_JuniorDocs inviting them for formal pay talks on the same basis other health unions accepted, including calling off next week’s strike.

“Let’s have a constructive dialogue to make the NHS a better place to work and ensure we deliver the care patients need.”