Speaking to GPonline, Lancashire GP Dr Wrigley called on all GPs health workers and the public to join Saturday’s national demonstration in London in defence of the NHS.
Organisers are expecting a big turnout for the march, which is backed by a range of health and anti-cuts campaign groups as well as trade unions, including the BMA. Marchers are demanding adequate funding for health and care services and an end to cuts, closures, privatisation and pay restraint.
Dr Wrigley, who sits on the GPC, said the march was important because it comes ahead of next week’s budget when the government would have a chance to increase funding for health and social care.
‘It's important we march before the budget to say to say to the chancellor: "fund the NHS properly and then we can provide the services patients deserve".
‘We are not a poor country. We can afford to fund the NHS,' Dr Wrigley added. ‘Funding [for health] in this country is one of the lowest in Europe. That's a political decision. We can find money for nuclear weapons, so we should be able to find the money for decent health care for the population.’
The government has repeatedly said that it has given the NHS an additional £10bn – more than it asked for. However, NHS England’s chief executive Simon Stevens has said the NHS has been given less than it asked for and does not have enough money. The House of Commons health committee has said NHS funding was set to rise by just £4.5bn over spending review period to 2020.
The BMA deputy chair said it was important for doctors to be on the march alongside patients to help highlight the ‘parlous’ state of the NHS. ‘It’s always a fantastic atmosphere at these marches, and people love to see doctors marching for the NHS. It sends a powerful message.’
The BMA is backing the protest and the junior doctors' committee chair and GP trainee Dr Jeeves Wijesuriya will address the protest rally. Dr Wrigley said that despite the government imposing the new junior doctors' contract, juniors’ campaign against the changes had ‘galvanised’ the whole profession to realise that action can make a difference.
‘The strike had a huge impact on society and showed that if we pull together as a profession we can be a really powerful voice,' Dr Wrigley said.
GPs need to take action
Responding to news that LMC leaders in London are preparing a fresh attempt to trigger industrial action by GPs if the GPC’s Urgent Prescription demands go unmet, Dr Wrigley said the LMCs conference would have to make any decision but he believed it was time for GPs to take some kind of action.
‘Patients are not aware of the severe pressure in general practice, with practices closing and GPs on their knees’, he said. ‘So I think we do need some action to highlight the plight of general practice.
‘So, I am in favour of action, but quite what that might be, it is quite difficult in general practice to take action that is coordinated and legal. But I do think that time might be coming that GPs do need to take action’, he said.
The #OurNHS march assembles at midday on Saturday 4 March at Tavistock Square in London and finishes at Parliament Square.