Protest march through city centre streets

Campaigners marched through the streets of Leeds city centre as part of a protest opposing the privatisation of the NHS.

Monday, 1st April 2019, 3:50 pm
Updated Monday, 1st April 2019, 3:53 pm

The demonstration on Saturday began with speeches outside Leeds Art Gallery with speakers from the Leeds branch of Keep our NHS Public (KONP), the GMB union and local groups from Yorkshire Health Campaigns Together.

Crowds then marched down Park Row, along Boar Lane, up Briggate and along the Headrow.

The annual event was first organised in 2012 by KONP.

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Hundreds of members from GMB, the trade union for health service workers, with other unions and community groups held a rally and march in Leeds on Saturday alongside Yorkshire Health Campaigns Together, to demand a better deal for NHS workers and the services they provide.

John Puntis, chairman of the Leeds branch and national secretary of KONP, retired from his role as a paediatric consultant at Leeds General Infirmary (LGI) two months ago.

He said the organisation wanted to “protest against what’s been done and continues to be done to the organisation of the NHS.”

Dr Puntis said that in light of funding cuts and under staffing patients were waiting for elective surgeries, such as knee and hip replacements, and cataract removal, for months.

In his 30 years at LGI, he said: “The work intensity got busier, staffing got worse and beds got reduced.”

Dr Puntis said he now wants to see increased funding for the health service.

Meanwhile, Stacey Booth, regional organiser for Yorkshire and North Derbyshire for GMB, headed up the union’s contingent of demonstrators during the march.

Leeds Central MP, Hilary Benn, who attended knocking in his constituency.

He told the YEP: ”This is an expression of the love and spirit of our wonderful NHS but we need to make sure we look after it for the future, and that is what today is all about.”

He added: “In Leeds we’ve got fantastic health services with dedicated staff and this march is also a way to support those people who make our NHS what it is.”