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Bid to save A&E at 'NHS birthplace'

Campaigners have stepped up their battle to save the A&E unit at the hospital regarded as the birthplace of the National Health Service.

Sixty-five years ago the NHS was officially launched by health secretary Aneurin Bevan at Davyhulme Park Hospital in Manchester.

Protesters on Friday gathered at the hospital, now known as Trafford General, to mark the birthday but also to voice their opposition at proposals to close the A&E unit, with patients needing to go Salford Royal, Manchester Royal Infirmary and Wythenshawe hospitals. Hospital bosses argue there are low patient numbers and fears over clinical safety.

People linked arms at the hospital gates in a gesture of "Hands Around the Hospital" before they sang Happy Birthday and then moved on to an NHS Party in the Park.

Among speakers and entertainers at Golden Hill Park was Unite union general secretary Len McCluskey, who hailed the "people power" of the campaign. He told the crowd that everyone was there to celebrate 65 years of the NHS but he gave a message to the Conservatives that it was not "a retirement party, far from it".

He said: "We are here to tell David Cameron and Nick Clegg that it is our NHS. It is our property. The property of the people."

He continued: "Our forefathers and foremothers did not build the best healthcare system in the world only for it to be chopped down and sold off by the swivel-eyed loons of the Tory Party. There has never been a more crucial time for NHS professionals to stand up and defend the services they deliver and for the people in communities to stand shoulder to shoulder who rely on those services.

"When Bevan introduced the service he said that the NHS would last as long as there are folk who are prepared to fight for it. He meant it ... Bevan believed that the Tory onslaught against the NHS would come in his own lifetime. He knew that the principles of public ownership, universal health care for all, free for all and not for profit, challenged everything the Tory Party stood for. But the NHS has lasted and lasted and stood the test of time.

"When Cameron and Clegg talk about organisation and reform ... these are just code words for fragmentation and privatisation. So let's be clear about the Tory agenda. Yes, they want a National Health Service, but only if it makes a profit for their friends in private health care. They don't value the health of ordinary people. They only know how to put a price on it."

He said the values of the "most cherished British institution ever known" must be fought for. He added: "We must make certain that the NHS is the top of the political agenda at the next General Election. And the next Labour government must repeal David Cameron's Health Act. No prevarication."

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