NHS protest closes Westminster Bridge

By Ian Dunt

Activists occupied Westminster bridge today in a last-gasp campaign ahead of the NHS reform bill heading to the Lords.

There was severe disruption in central London, with protestors shutting the bridge in a symbolic act disconnecting parliament from St Thomas' Hospital, on the other side of the Thames.

Activists unveiled a huge banner reading: "Save our NHS."

Click here to see a video feed of the protest.

During the protest crowds chanted "we are the 99%" – a slogan associated with the Wall Street protests in New York.

There was a strong police presence on both exits. Protestors were later kettled by officers.

"By blocking Westminster Bridge we symbolically block the bill from getting from parliament to our hospitals," organisers said.

"Yes, it will be disruptive. Yes, it will stop the traffic. But this is an emergency and we have to shout as loud as we can."

UK Uncut led proceedings, with campaigners bringing fake blood and playing dead.

Trade unionists, pensioners, health workers and comedians, including TV personality Mark Thomas, also attended.

"Peaceful protest and civil disobedience have a long and proud history in this country, and are a perfectly legitimate response to plans that no-one voted for and no-one wants," Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS), said.

The health and social care bill moves to the Lords this week. Labour has offered to back government plans for GP commissioning if the government agrees to drop the bill.

A Department of Health spokesman said: "The principles of our modernisation plans – patient power, clinical leadership, a focus on results – have been widely supported, as reported by the independent NHS Future Forum.

"We simply won't secure the future of the NHS without this bill."

Around 2,000 people seemed to be attending the demonstration.