Vigils were held across Shropshire yesterday evening with members of the public showing their solidarity with the NHS and NHS workers.
Shropshire Defend Our NHS and the Shropshire Needs Ambulances campaign came together to arrange the five torchlight vigils, held in Ludlow, Shrewsbury, Bridgnorth, Wellington and Telford.
Commenting on the vigils, Gill George, Chair of Defend Our NHS, said: “Yesterday evening, towns across Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin spoke with one voice: Solidarity with our NHS; solidarity with NHS workers.
“The mood was one of unity – but also one of deep anger at the terrible damage done to our NHS and the needless attacks on our valued health workers. This has to stop. Health workers are showing a lead in fighting for our NHS – and we must stand with them.”
In total, hundreds of people turned out to support the five vigils. The largest events were in Ludlow, with over 130; Shrewsbury, with over 100; and Bridgnorth with over 60.
Councillor Julia Buckley, who coordinated the Bridgnorth vigil, commented ‘People just kept coming’.
At Ludlow, nurses who had been on strike earlier in the day were in attendance. At Bridgnorth, NHS workers on their break came out of the Community Hospital to thank protesters for their support.
Ludlow Councillor Tracey Huffer spoke passionately about the harm being done to the NHS – and read out a statement of support from the GPs at Station Drive Surgery. Well-known local singer Polly Bolton sang “Bread and Roses”, a song traditionally associated with strike action and that expresses the yearning that people have for a quality of life offering more than simple survival.
Councillor Kate Halliday, one of the organisers of the Shrewsbury vigil, said: “The Prime Minister said last week there is no crisis in the NHS. We are here to tell him there is a crisis, and we will not stand by watching the NHS disintegrate in silence. We need to support NHS workers to get fair pay and we need to improve funding into the NHS so that it works for everyone.”
In Telford and in Ludlow, letters were left at Conservative Party Constituency Offices asking MPs, ‘Will you continue to look the other way while your constituents die? Are you accountable to us, your constituents, or to your Party in Westminster?’
Darren Childs, one of the organisers of the Ludlow vigil, said: “The turnout in Ludlow – and across all five vigils – was amazing. People care for our NHS and I think most people realise this terrible crisis is a consequence of twelve years of underfunding and understaffing. One of the placards there in Ludlow said “Philip Dunne, where are you?” – and that’s a very good question. The continued silence from four out of five local MPs really isn’t good enough.
“At each event, there was a recognition of the need to build the fight for the NHS. This is urgent now. If we don’t organise together now to fight for our NHS, we are going to lose it.”