Bedford Riverbank Ward car convoy

“If you want to privatise something and destroy it, a standard method is first to defund it, so it doesn’t work anymore, people get upset and accept privatisation. This is happening in the schools. They are defunded, so they don’t work well.” ~ Noam Chomsky.

The same could be said to be true of our NHS.

Bedford Hospitals pediatric unit at the Riverbank Ward has been subject to cuts and closures in recent weeks and the local community in Bedford have taken part in successive and successful demonstrations and protests to highlight their strength of feelings towards them. The most recent of which was a cavalcade procession from Bedford hospital to the Luton and Dunstable hospital (L&D), to highlight the journey that families will now face for their children aged up to 19.

The event was created by concerned residents of Luton from the Luton People’s Assembly, they said the drive behind mobilising to aid the Save Riverbank ward group was based on the fact that if a stand is not taken today for this ward, tomorrow it could be another ward and soon, the L&D. These cuts and closures have been part of a steady stream of attacks to undermine the NHS in the UK, perhaps the single most amazing thing this country has ever produced. The mainstream media (MSM) have been drip feeding horror stories regarding NHS trusts, nurses and doctors relentlessly for months now, trying to convince us that the NHS fire sale and privatisation proposed by Jeremy Hunt and his cohorts is not such a bad idea. This attack on the pediatric unit is just another part of that onerous plan.

The group met at 9am at Bedford Interchange retail park and before long were confronted by the police, concerned that the journey would be at an obstructive pace. Once they were assured that this would not be the case they decided to follow us in any event, but had to be away at 10:30am for another appointment. There were about 30 cars at the start, all decorated in a variety of creative ways and numerous trade union banners on display, the highlight of which was a trailer, complete with hospital bed, toy doll symbolising a sick child, with some doctors thrown into the mix.  People from all parts of society came together under one common goal which was refreshing to see.

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The route took the group through Bedford town past the hospital where the convoy stopped to make plenty of noise. This was met with waves from the windows as patients looked out in support of the people demonstrating. The convoy then slowly made its way down the A6 through Barton-le clay and into Luton town via the L&D before pulling up at Lewsey Park where a short rally was held. The main message was the need to keep up the pressure and reminding those in attendance of the recent decision to over turn the closure of Lewisham A&E because of the actions taken by the local community. There was also a presence from the new group of firefighters campaigning against austerity ‘We Save People Not Banks’ who reminded the crowd that the small actions of dedicated people can and do make change if they want it.

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What next for Riverbank Ward remains to be seen, rumour has it that there have been plans in place for a number of weeks designed to appease the campaign group to settle their dispute, but anything less than the full restoration and safe guarding of their NHS service will be acceptable. For the wider movement to defend our NHS there is the mass rally and demonstration called by the TUC on September 29th in Manchester looking to form a quarantine around the Tory party conference. The event is being supported by unions and activist groups from across the country and you are encouraged to attend and add your support to defend our NHS. For more info go to the People’s Assembly page.

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