Campaigners made their voices heard through the south of the city as they walked from Albert Road to Castle Field on Saturday to chants of ‘the NHS is here to stay,’ ahead of the service’s 73rd birthday on Monday.
Their demands included a 15 per cent pay rise for staff, no further cuts and an end to privatisation of the NHS.
One of its organisers and trade union Unite member, Veronika Wagner - who is a mental health doctor in the area - explained why it was necessary.
‘We need pay justice for our NHS workers,’ she said.
‘But also it’s about patient safety and recruiting more staff. Even before the pandemic we were about 100,000 staff members short, which is about 10,000 doctors and 40,000 nurses. And around 1,000 staff died of Covid, with 100,000 suffering from long Covid.
‘Of course this puts our patients at risk and we’ve already seen unprecedented numbers on hospital waiting lists - with five million waiting for treatment across the country.’
Former nurse of 25 years Barbara Wild, who attended as a member of the Solent Women Against State Pension Inequality, was concerned for the future of the NHS.
The 66-year-old from Cosham said: ‘The NHS I used to work for doesn’t exist anymore, it’s very concerning.
‘One of my main worries is that we’re losing so many nurses with experience and they’re not recruiting enough people to replace them.’
Residents of all ages gave their backing to the cause.
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10-year-old Etta Toghill from Southsea was there with her mum and younger siblings. Her grandmother recently underwent surgery through the NHS.
‘We are here to protect the NHS,’ she said.
‘My grandma was in hospital for three weeks. The NHS helped her get better.
‘We want the staff to be paid more.’
And Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan joined the group on their march.
He added: ‘What I hear most from my constituents is them saying we’ve got a government that is just clapping for these heroes but have not shown them any real recognition for what they have done in the pandemic.’