Press release: UK Uncut transform banks into hospitals in protest at NHS cuts

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UK Uncut transform banks into hospitals in protest at NHS cuts

UK Uncut, the anti-austerity action group, will tomorrow occupy high-street banks in at least 35 towns and cities across the country, in the biggest display so far of direct action against proposed NHS cuts.

Despite Cameron’s election promise to not cut the NHS, 50,000 NHS jobs will be lost over the next five years including thousands of doctors, nurses and midwives [1]. Protesters will occupy high street banks to highlight alternatives to NHS cuts, including making banks pay for their ongoing public subsidy of up to £100bn a year. They point to a recent speech by a chief executive at the Bank of England, in which he pointed out that the annual public subsidy to the banks, in the form of free insurance and guarantees, was roughly equal to the entire NHS budget. [2] [3]

Dubbed ‘The Emergency Operation’, tomorrow’s day of action will take place in over 35 towns and cities nationwide [4], with activists dressed in scrubs and armed with fake blood and bandages setting up ‘operating theatres’ inside branches of the four major banks. Saturday will be UK Uncut’s first major action since the arrests of 145 protesters during the sit-in at Fortnum & Mason on March 26th, a protest described by a senior police officer on scene at the time as ‘peaceful and non-violent’ [5]. A coalition of high-profile trade unions and NGOs subsequently wrote a letter in support of UK Uncut activists arrested in the store and criticised police behaviour [6].

In a sign of increasing unity between the trade unions and direct action groups, the PCS union has encouraged its members to attend UK Uncut actions tomorrow [7]. Meanwhile, the Uncut movement continues to spread around the globe, with Portugal and Canada Uncut holding their first actions [8]. Last month, US Uncut staged hundreds of occupations of tax-dodging corporations from Hawaii to New Hampshire across a four-day period [9].

Health worker and UK Uncut supporter Rosie Beech, 29, said of tomorrow’s protest: “David Cameron said he wasn’t going to cut the NHS. He lied. 50,000 NHS staff will lose their jobs, whilst the taxpayer continues to subsidise the banks. Why is the government cutting the NHS and privatising what’s left rather than forcing our broken banking system to pay up?”

UK Uncut activist Josephine Hill, 34, who was arrested for taking part in the Fortnum and Mason sit-in, said: “I will not be intimidated out of protesting by blatant political policing. It is vital that we continue to take action against the government’s brutal cuts agenda, especially the wholesale destruction of the NHS.”