'The NHS is close to collapse': Shropshire towns out in force at vigils for health service

Hundreds of people across Shropshire came together at vigils to show solidarity with striking NHS workers, as healthcare officials warn up to 500 people are dying every week because of the crisis in emergency care.

Torchlight vigils were held across Shropshire on Wednesday night, in support of striking NHS workers.
Torchlight vigils were held across Shropshire on Wednesday night, in support of striking NHS workers.

Shropshire Defend Our NHS and the Shropshire Needs Ambulances campaign came together to organise the five vigils, held in Ludlow, Shrewsbury, Bridgnorth, Wellington and Telford town centre on Wednesday night.

Hundreds of people attended the vigils, with more than 130 in Ludlow, over 100 in Shrewsbury, and more than 60 in Bridgnorth. In Ludlow, nurses who had been striking earlier on in the day attended the vigil.

And in Bridgnorth, NHS workers on their break came out of the Community Hospital to thank protestors for their support.

Gill George, chair of Defend Our NHS, said: "Yesterday evening, towns across Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin spoke with one voice: 'Solidarity with our NHS; solidarity with NHS workers'.

"The mood was one of unity – but also one of deep anger at the terrible damage done to our NHS and the needless attacks on our valued health workers. This has to stop. Health workers are showing a lead in fighting for our NHS – and we must stand with them."

Torchlight vigils were held across Shropshire on Wednesday night, in support of striking NHS workers.

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine believes that up to 500 people are dying every week because of the crisis in emergency care, while the British Medical Association, the professional body representing doctors, believes that the deaths and the crisis are a consequence of ‘political choice’.

Health campaigner Darren Childs, one of the organisers of the Ludlow vigil, said: "The turnout in Ludlow – and across all five vigils - was amazing. People care for our NHS and I think most people realise this terrible crisis is a consequence of twelve years of underfunding and understaffing.

"One of the placards there in Ludlow said 'Philip Dunne, where are you?' – and that’s a very good question. The continued silence from four out of five local MPs really isn’t good enough."

Torchlight vigils were held across Shropshire on Wednesday night, in support of striking NHS workers.

Local singer Polly Bolton also attended the Ludlow vigil and sang Bread and Roses, a song traditionally associated with strike action that expresses the yearning that people have for a quality of life offering more than simple survival.

Polly read out a powerful statement written by one of the nurses on strike that day, which said: "We are tired, worn out mentally and emotionally drained - we feel undervalued, overworked and are burnt out.

"Patients are more vulnerable and need more time from staff since the Covid outbreak, but who wants to become a nurse when you earn more in an administration role or a supermarket role?

"There is no need to be on edge waiting for an emergency bell to go off, never having to call someone to tell them their relative has died, no zipping up body bags and not going home wondering if you've done your best in the most stressful of settings.

"People aren't dying because nurses are striking. Nurses are striking because people are dying."

Torchlight vigils were held across Shropshire on Wednesday night, in support of striking NHS workers.

Mr Childs said there was a palpable frustration at the vigils over "the Government's denial of the escalating crisis in which so many people are dying".

In Telford and Ludlow, letters were left at Conservative Party constituency offices asking MPs: "Will you continue to look the other way while your constituents die? Are you accountable to us, your constituents, or to your party in Westminster?"

At the Shrewsbury event, Councillor Kate Halliday – one of the organisers of the vigil – said: "The Prime Minister said last week there is no crisis in the NHS. We are here to tell him there is a crisis, and we will not stand by watching the NHS disintegrate in silence.

"We need to support NHS workers to get fair pay and we need to improve funding into the NHS so that it works for everyone."

Mr Childs added: "Sometimes it is hard not to cry. At the Ludlow vigil, two people attending the vigil spoke, in addition to the pre-arranged speakers.

"One man spoke movingly of the death of his friend – a man who had died slowly and painfully, much of his distress caused by the frightening gaps that now exist in NHS and social care.

"Another speaker talked about the health workers he knows who, quite disgracefully, are forced to depend on food banks simply to survive.

"This is urgent now. If we don’t organise together now to fight for our NHS, we are going to lose it."

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