I was immensely proud to speak at Save Our NHS in Kent’s demonstration of support for Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Hospital in Thanet. The written version of my speech follows.
Those of you who know me know that I don’t often wear blue in public, but this is one group and one campaign for which I’m proud to wear blue.
We’re here today to give our hospital a hug.
It needs our love and support at the moment, because it’s vulnerable – vulnerable to cuts and to closures.
Today it’s the stroke unit; tomorrow it could be our A&E.
Closing wards and downgrading hospitals is a travesty anywhere, but even more so in Thanet.
People are more likely to have a stroke here than in more affluent parts of Kent and more likely to be admitted to hospital as a result.
We probably all know someone who has had a stroke locally.
I know a man in his early 50s, a father, who had a stroke that left him unable to drive and severely affected his plumbing business and his family life.
Stroke can be devastating, and the one thing we know about stroke is that it must be treated FAST.
Closing our stroke unit is not just inconvenient. It’s dangerous and, we believe, illegal.
With the help of every single person who has donated to the fundraising campaign, Save Our NHS in Kent will be challenging this decision in the high court.
Now, I wouldn’t be doing my job properly if I didn’t say that our two local MPs have been less than effective when it comes to our stroke unit.
They’ve both flip-flopped between supporting and opposing its closure, but done very little in real terms to prevent it from happening.
They won’t and they can’t do more because it’s the policy of their Government to centralise health services and to starve them of funds.
Our new Prime Minister is very friendly with Donald Trump. During his state visit to the UK, Trump said that the NHS would be ‘on the table’ in any trade deal between the UK and the US in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
That, I fear, is the ultimate plan – to take us out of the European Union with no deal and to make us reliant on trade deals with America that include the more profitable parts of our beloved NHS.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
During the last General Election, the Labour Party pledged to halt the closure of all hospitals and wards.
If we had a Labour Government now, we wouldn’t be in this position.
I was proud to wear this blue t-shirt in a sea of red at the Labour Party’s annual conference in Liverpool last year, together with several of the people here today, including Councillor Gregory and Councillor Farrance.
We met Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Health, Jon Ashworth, who told us he supports our campaign and promised to come and visit.
So there’s still plenty to fight for.
Together, we will challenge the decision to close the stroke unit.
Together, we will resist our NHS being sold off.
Together, we will hold the Government to account.