Fourty-four University of Birmingham students, led by the Guild of Students, joined the 50,000 TUC march in Manchester last week against proposed changes to the NHS. Concerns over increased privatisation of parts of the NHS were highlighted as a key reason for the protest, which was planned to coincide with the Conservative Party Conference last […]

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Fourty-four University of Birmingham students, led by the Guild of Students, joined the 50,000 TUC march in Manchester last week against proposed changes to the NHS. Concerns over increased privatisation of parts of the NHS were highlighted as a key reason for the protest, which was planned to coincide with the Conservative Party Conference last Sunday.

‘Students are affected by far more than what goes in within the walls of the University’

The atmosphere of the protests was described as relaxed and positive, with a number of children and elderly also present. Just two arrests were made.

The atmosphere of the protests was described as relaxed and positive, with a number of children and elderly also present. Just two arrests were made.

Hattie Craig, Vice President (Education) at the Guild, who organised the Guild’s involvement in the protest, argued that ‘there is so much evidence about the NHS already having been privatised’.
Craig further pointed out that University of Birmingham students are rightfully concerned about a wide range of issues, not just matters that directly affect them. ‘Students are affected by far more than what goes in within the walls of the University’.

One of the other reasons given for the Guild’s involvement in the protest is the Government’s proposal to charge international students for the use of NHS services during their stay at university.

Given the typically low student turnout at the polls, she suggested that such a ‘culture of campaigning’ was the way forward in making the student voice heard by government.

This was echoed by second year history student, Rob Parkinson, who attended the protest: ‘the NHS is at greater threat now than in over a generation’. He went on to say that he and the Guild went to show the government that they were against the proposed privatisation.

A spokesperson from the Department of Health told the BBC that there was ‘absolutely no government policy to privatise the NHS’.

Among other Sabbatical and Non-Sabbatical Officers who attended, there was LGBTQ Student Officer Leilani Rabemananjara, who said that ‘in terms of the majority of democratic opinion, [the Conservatives] are making a mistake with the NHS’.

Hattie Craig also explained that government plans could have a detrimental effect on the provision of healthcare for students in Birmingham. She specified concerns that walk-in centres around Selly Oak could potentially face closure due to government spending cuts.

This would be especially problematic for students who are not registered with local GPs and use walk-in centres for emergency problems. The UoB Women’s Association has also drawn attention to the adverse effect these changes could have on female students who require emergency contraception.

Craig also asserts that the ongoing austerity measures being put place in by the government are ‘completely linked to a short-termist attitude’. She argues that a lack of walk-in centres could result in a higher demand at the A&E at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, including those who didn’t need Emergency treatment.

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