Health workers staging job cuts rallies

Thousands of health workers will attend mass rallies in the North-East today in protest at job cuts in the NHS.

Thousands of health workers will attend mass rallies in the North-East today in protest at job cuts in the NHS.

Staff and patients will march from Barnes Park in Sunderland to the city's Royal Infirmary to lay flowers as a symbol of jobs lost in the region.

At the same time, there will be a rally in Darlington. Several more events organised by NHS Together - a group of unions and health organisations - will be staged across the country.

Unions warn that services are under threat from financial deficits, expansion of the private sector and too much reform.

Anger at NHS policy has been heightened this week following the announcement on Thursday of a pay deal amounting to a 1.9% rise for nurses and other NHS staff.

Last night TUC Northern regional secretary Kevin Rowan said: "For as long as I can remember, we've never had so much concern about the future of the NHS being expressed by so many workers and patients.

"These demonstrations will show the strength of feeling. The Government would be wise to listen to the concerns expressed to them.

"While we recognise there's been large-scale investment in the NHS under this Labour Government, it's the staff that make it work.

"The Government needs to demonstrate it values and appreciates those staff by showing they have a future, their jobs are secure and also that they're paid properly for the work that they do."

Unison regional head of health Liz Twist said: "For healthcare staff, the announcement about pay has been a huge blow.

"While the focus of the demonstrations is really about NHS services, it doesn't help. We need to show we're valuing people."

Health Minister Rosie Winterton said last night: "The NHS reform agenda is about putting patients first and involving staff at the heart of shaping services. Every union and stakeholder signed up to the principles of the NHS Plan, which set the course for reform over 10 years.

"The NHS needs to keep reforming to provide care closer to people's homes and to keep pace with rising public expectations and new medical technologies. If we know that change will deliver better quality care and better value for money for taxpayers, then standing still is simply not an option."

The Sunderland rally starts in Barnes Park at 10.30am. The Darlington demonstration begins at 11am in Bondgate.

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