De Montfort Students’ Union (DSU)’s Officer Team led a group of students to London to fight cuts imposed on the National Health Service (NHS) alongside 250,000 fellow campaigners.
Augustus Mbanasor, DP Education at DSU, joined a group of 14 De Montfort University (DMU) students on Saturday 4 March to join the #OurNHS Demo as it winded its way through London.
Robert McEntee is a third-year Mental Health Nursing student and secretary of the Contemporary Health Society, and led the students who attended alongside Augustus. He said: “The NHS is currently under great strain – turn on any TV or Radio and you’ll hear that – but what is not made clear is that this does not have to be the case.
“The strain is a direct result of policy choices by successive governments; Labour; Conservative; and the Coalition.
“It was fantastic to see DMU students from such a diverse range of subjects motivated enough to make it out early on a Saturday morning to support their local and national health services.
“This was only possible thanks to the support of the students' union, and Augustus who did such a great job of rallying us all together and motivating people to turn out for the trip.”
The march, which had been forecast to be the largest in the NHS’ 68-year history, was supported by hundreds of thousands of demonstrators across the city as the crowds made their way past 10 Downing Street towards Parliament Square.
“When we arrived in Tavistock Square, it was clear that standing out would be difficult as the area was awash with a sea of similar signs,” Robert continued. “Hundreds of people filled the public space with placards, balloons, flags, tshirts and signs covered with pro-NHS slogans and logos.
“Then there was the noise! We were surrounded by drummers, people with megaphones and microphones, horns, whistles, crowds exchanging chants and the general cacophony you get when such a large number of people get together with something to say.”
Campaigners, medical staff and students as well as other members of the public who took part in the march held up homemade banners with slogans including ‘We want our NHS back’ and ‘The NHS for the needy, not the greedy’.
Augustus and the group of DMU students joined more than 250,000 campaigners as they marched through the capital.
The DMU party left Tavistock Square 40 minutes later than planned as turnout for the was much larger than anyone could have expected.
“As we moved through London, the scale of the event revealed itself,” Robert explained. “It became clear that this was larger than other demonstrations in recent history.
“We marched past Downing Street and on to Parliament Square where speakers including [Labour leader] Jeremy Corbyn told us what we already knew; that the NHS is being broken down and sold, and that it is a disgrace.
“The choice of our government to prioritise corporate tax breaks, private enterprise and market forces over the safeguarding of the public sector is quickly leading to the dismantlement of our treasured NHS. The NHS is not simply failing, it is being failed.”
And Robert has encouraged as many students as possible – at DMU and elsewhere – to get behind the NHS. “I feel that as many students as possible should be getting involved in this act of public support,” he said. “As degree-educated individuals, regardless of our field, it is our role in society to think critically about our world.
“We all use the NHS and many of us at DMU are training to work within it, and we should not accept the untruthful narrative that Britain cannot afford a safe, effective and publicly-owned health service.”
He was also grateful for the support of a member of DSU’s Officer Team, who had previously attended the National Union of Students (NUS)’ National Demo in November.
Robert explained: “Augustus provided support for our group, ensuring we were all kept together and safe.
“And, at the end of the day, he physically chased down our moving bus, which he spotted amongst the traffic of central London. We’d still be waiting on the Victoria Embankment if it wasn't for his superhuman sprint!”
"We’d still be waiting on the Victoria Embankment if it wasn't for [Augustus'] superhuman sprint!"