History of British social movements Part 4

This is the fourth part of a series of posts on the history of social movements in Britain. It includes 2 social movements: health care movement and housing movement. See a previous post that explains what social movements are.

Here is a list of the social movements covered in this series so far.

Part 1: anti-austerity movement; alter/anti-globalization, Global Justice, anti-capitalist Movement; anti-austerity movement: anti-racist movements; anti-fascists; anti-slavery/abolition Movement

Part 2: Community movements; Disability Movement

Part 3: environment movement; feminist/women movement

Health care movement

This focuses on the NHS. I’ve included the struggle to get the NHS; health worker union campaigns and strikes; staff and public campaigns against privatisation, cuts, closures, including legal challenges; abortion campaigning; mental health and anti-psychiatry movements; against PFI hospitals; campaigners standing against politicians in elections; the campaign for the NHS Reinstatement Bill; campaigning against including the NHS in trade deals; campaigning related to Covid-19; and several wins over the years.

I have divided it up into five phases:

Phase one – the creation of the NHS

Phase two – from NHS creation to Thatcher

Phase three – Thatcher and Major years

Phase four – New Labour years

Phase five – Cameron, May, Johnson years

There is a final section – NHS campaigning groups and health worker unions

I didn’t have time to go through the KONP Monthly news bullets and KONP newspaper.

Phase one – the creation of the NHS

The NHS was made possible due to a long struggle by the workers’ movement from the 1800s until its creation in 1948. This article looks at the socialist roots of birth control going back to the 1800s.

In 1919, the College of Nursing organised a campaign to establish a register of nurses for the first time. It was successful with the passing of the Nurses’ Act. [1]

The NHS was created in 1948 after years of campaigning by the trade unions and Labour Party to resolve the lack of healthcare in Britain before the Second World War. Working-class communities organised their own local solutions, called Friendly Societies, which were “vast mutual funds organised in working-class communities to provide insurance for health care costs. Such was their success that, by the turn of the century, six times as many workers were involved in Friendly Societies as in the trade union movement.” [2]

A successful community-based healthcare scheme was in the Welsh mining village of Tredegar: “The Tredegar Medical Aid Society was formed by miners and ironworkers in the town and grew to offer one of the first comprehensive health care provisions available in working-class Britain. The scheme extended coverage to women and children, made opticians, dentistry, and mental health services available for the first time, and even established its own hospital. By the interwar period it covered 23,000 of Tredegar’s 24,000 residents. The scheme influenced a wide range of health care thinkers— but its most prominent disciple was local miner Aneurin Bevan, whose political career would have a greater influence on the formation of the NHS than anyone else.

“The 1930s did see expansion of public health programs but little by way of structural changes in provision. As the government stalled, outside agitation increased. Left-wing doctors who had been organised in the State Medical Service Association formed the Socialist Medical Association (SMA) in 1930. Its constitution outlined aims to develop ‘a socialised medical service, free and open to all.’ The SMA affiliated to the Labour Party in 1931 and by 1934 had succeeded in placing much of its policies in the party manifesto. Health care workers in the Medical Practitioners’ Union, increasingly dismayed by the right-wing leadership of the British Medical Association (BMA), came to endorse a nationalised system too. Even in the BMA a report was produced in 1935 by George M’Gonigle arguing that the government needed to increase health care supports and welfare payments to the poor to stave off ill health.” [2]

Phase two – from NHS creation to Thatcher

In 1962 nurses campaigned over pay for the first time and were successful in getting their demand met. [3] This article gives a history of nurse militancy from 1962 to 1993. There were several high profile campaigns in the 1960s for family planning services and abortion law reform, caused by changing social attitudes and the introduction of oral contraception. [4]

In 1967, the Abortion Act was brought in. Here is a history of abortion law in the UK. The Abortion Law Reform Association was active from the 1930s-end of the twentieth century. [5]

“The National Abortion Campaign (NAC) was formed in 1975 and the group defended the Abortion Act 1967 against several proposed amendment bills during the 1970s and 1980s.”

Local women’s groups in the 1970s and 1980s connected reproduction rights and preventative health care for women and focused on self-health and ‘well-women’ clinics. In the medical profession, groups such as Women in Medicine and Radical Midwives formed. [6]

The mental health and anti-psychiatry movement being active since the 1960s. I can’t find much on this. This article looks at the 1960s and 1980s. This article on the 1970s.

This article describes nurses campaigning for pay rises in the mid-1970s and getting them. From 1975, the government attempted to limit nurse’s pay increases and many nurses took part in the Winter of Discontent (1978-9) industrial action and received about half the pay increase they were demanding. [7] There were three largely successful doctor‘s periods of industrial action in 1975. [8]

In 1977, a patient in pain waiting for an operation was told they would have to wait a year unless they paid £500 (about £2,500 today) or wait a year. In response, she walked into the local hospital and lay down in an empty bed. Her direct action was supported by hospital workers and operated on in the next few days, with no one losing out. The right-wing media and Labour government were not happy. [9]

Phase three – Thatcher and Major years

There was an occupation and work-in at St Mary’s Hospital (Harrow Road, London) in 1981 work-in in protest at bed cuts and closure. There was a large industrial dispute over NHS in 1982. Two hospitals, Hayes Cottage and Northwood and Pinner faced closure in 1983 and were occupied. Thornton View hospital in Bradford was occupied in 1982/3. In 1984-5 the South London Women’s Hospital was occupied in protest of its planned closure.

The Griffiths’report of 1983 started the introduction of managerialism in the NHS, with the removal of consensus management by doctors and nurses. Sadly, there was limited resistance by the British Medical Association (BMA), unions and the Royal College of Nurses to these changes. [10]

1987 saw a funding crisis for the NHS, with NHS authorities closing their services. In response “To the applause of the public, health workers took to the streets in protest; both nurses and blood-transfusion workers began strike action over industrial-relations grievances. In a rare expression of united action, the Presidents of three Royal Colleges issued an urgent call for additional resources for the health service. These alarming developments were reflected in parliament, where unrest spread to the government backbenches.” [11]

In 1988, there was a day of national strikes by nurses for better pay.

In 1989 the Tories announced the ‘Working for patients’ white paper, vaguely proposing a reorganisation of the NHS. There was limited resistance from within the medical profession and it was divided so of little success. [12]

The Tories brought in the first wave of NHS privatisation in 1991, the ‘Internal Market

There was some opposition by the BMA but it was defeated. [13]

1990 saw a dispute between NHS ambulance workers and management. Their union had advised them to take a pay offer but many refused and took part in wildcat strikes. Here is an account of the impact of the 1991 Gulf War on the NHS, including an anti-war leaflet produced by health workers.

There were strikes and an occupation at University College Hospital from 1992-4.

The 1990s saw opposition to GP fundholding and how it was creating a two-tier NHS. [14]. There was a campaign to save the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) in London in the 1990s. [15]

Phase four – New Labour years

In 1999 Allyson Pollock challenged the New Labour government in the media about its PFI hospital plans. [16]

A political party formed in 2000 in Kidderminster to defend a casualty unit at Kidderminster Hospital, called Independent Kidderminster Hospital and Health Concern, (often known as Independent Community And Health Concern and abbreviated as ICHC). Since 2015 it has successfully contested local elections within the Wyre Forest local government area, which includes Kidderminster. In 2001/2 doctors stood against Labour MPs and won. Dr Richard Taylor stood as an independent against Labour MP David Locke in Kidderminster. Dr Jean Turner stood in the Scottish elections in Glasgow in 2002 over the threat to Stobhill Hospital. [17]

Scotland saw nursery nurse strikes in 2003. 600 NHS workers in Newcastle went on strikes in 2005 over new Agenda for Change rules which allow new staff to earn more than staff with many years of experience.

The early 2000s saw care home residents form local action groups to oppose care home privatisation and closures in Birmingham, Oxford, and Plymouth. Groups went to the High Court to get injunctions against the closures. The groups were called RAGE (Residents Action Group for the Elderly). [18]

The early 2000s also saw hospital workers striking against privatisation and being transferred to new PFI hospitals, resulting in cuts in staffing, and lowing of pay and conditions. [19]

In 2005, competition for staff caused the Southampton University Hospital NHS Trust to ban consultants from working for the for-profit hospital owned by Capio. This resulted in Capio being unable to fulfil its contract to treat NHS patients with Hampshire Primary Care Trusts. [20]

Also in 2005, the Association of Surgeons voted 95% against more privatisation due to the impact on training and standards resistance to treatment centres. [21]

2006 saw resistance to closing the Royal Surrey Hospital and the A&E unit at Ayr Hospital.

Healthcare workers pushed back against privatisation and funding cuts: a three-day strike a Whipps Cross Hospital, industrial action at NHS Pensions Agency (NHSPA), protests outside Parliament and in Brighton. Growing opposition to NHS job losses around the country. Dispute over pay and conditions resulted in strikes of hospital porters and cleaners in London and plans for nurses to begin working-to-rule.

2006 saw NHS logistics workers on strike in all five depots, opposing the take-over by the courier company DHL. There were street demonstrations again hospital closures and cuts in Nottingham, Hastings, Oxford, Banbury, Epsom, Redditch and Southampton. The Stroud birthing unit was saved from closure due to a strong campaign. The TUC NHS Together campaign organised a march in London on November 1. [22]

2006 saw the Kerr Haslam Inquiry report on 30 years of the sexual abuse of women psychiatric patients.

Healthcare workers in 2007 saw Manchester mental health workers striking over cuts and job losses. [23] The UNISON branch chair Karen Reissmann, was suspended for speaking to the media, and then fired resulting in strikes and protests continuing through 2007. [24] There were protests across the UK over NHS cuts, paramedics in Wales refused to work overtime to highlight staff shortages and a campaign against the NHS Blood and Transplant Board plans to shut a blood centre even though there were shortages of blood.

There were pay and conditions disputes in Norfolk, Leicestershire and Wolverhampton, and cleaners and catering staff staged a 24-hour strike over a decrease in working hours.

There was a national UNISON pay ballot to strike over pay [25]

2008 saw hundreds of NHS workers from 16 trade unions protesting and balloting for strike action. [26] The campaign to save Horton Hospital services won in 2008. 2009 saw pharmaceutical workers campaigning for decent pay and dignity at work.

Phase five – Cameron, May, Johnson years

In 2011, the Royal Brompton hospital won the right to challenge the closure of the children’s heart surgery unit. [27]

In 2012 the independent/base trade union IWW ran a campaign to lobby the BMA council to increase the pay of BMA house cleaning staff to the London living wage. [28]

2012 also saw a victory against NHS privatisation: “Gloucestershire NHS campaigners have been celebrating victory as Gloucestershire Primary Care Trust (PCT) has announced that the county’s eight community hospitals and health services (including 3000 nurses and other health workers) will remain in the NHS – reversing an earlier decision to outsource services.” [2

9] There was also a small demonstration at Royal Liverpool University Hospital.

Between 2010 and 2012 there was a lot of resistance to the Tory government’s 2012 Health and Social Care Act. There was strong opposition from the Royal College of General Practitioners. [30] Activists in the Royal College of Physicians forced the college to vote against the government bill at an Extraordinary General Meeting. [31] NHS consultants ran 160 miles in protest against the government health bill. The BMA was forced to come out in opposition [32]

There was a campaign to save the Alexandra Hospital in Worcestershire. [33]

The political party, National Health Action Party (NHA) formed in 2012 in response to the 2012 Health and Social Care Act. “It campaigns for renationalisation of the privatised parts of the English National Health Service, reductions in outsourcing, and improvements to NHS funding, service provision and staffing. Despite focusing on health, the party has a range of policies in areas such as the economy, housing and education. These include opposition to austerity and a call for political reform.” Here is The NHA Party Election Broadcast 2017.

2013 saw huge opposition against the planned closure of Lewisham Hospital in South London. The Appeal Court later ruled that the government health secretary did not have the authority to close emergency and maternity services.

Three unions signed the first voluntary recognition deal between unions and an independent health and social care provider in 2013. GMB, RCN and Unison created the agreement with Four Season Health Care for more than 30,000 staff caring for more than 20,000 residents.

Here is a radical report on the struggles in the NHS. And another report on healthcare workers fighting to defend their pay and conditions against the NHS management and unions.

There was a successful campaign and strike in West Yorkshire. Mid Yorkshire NHS Trust management planned to attack the wages of conditions of the weakest workers, the admin staff. There was a successful UNISON ballot, 24-hour strike and press campaign forcing management to negotiate a deal that protected their salaries for three years.

There were several judicial review campaigns in 2013. Save Lewisham Hospital (SLH) group campaigned to stop the downgrading of the A&E department. Ealing Council campaign regarding controversial plans to downgrade four local hospitals. Flint Hospital campaign to block closure plans. Enfield Council to stop Chase Farm Hospital closures. [34] Lord Owen brought an NHS Bill to the House of Lords, to reinstate the NHS.

In 2014 there was the biggest NHS workers’ strike in 30 years over pay by nurses, midwives and ambulance staff. [35] There was a care workers strike in Doncaster, which solidarity demonstrations.

Ealing Hospital saw outsourced porters, cleaners and canteen staff go on a 48-hour strike for higher wages. There was a campaign in Brighton and Hove to keep drug and alcohol services run by the NHS. Here is a critique article on the Royal College of Nursing.

The campaign for the NHS Reinstatement Bill first started in 2014 (until 2018), which aims “to fully restore the NHS as an accountable public service by reversing 25 years of marketization in the NHS, by abolishing the purchaser-provider split, ending contracting and re-establishing public bodies and public services accountable to local communities.”

There were three judicial reviews in 2014. Dalriada Hospital won its judicial review to stay open.

Cardigan hospital saw a judicial review over bed closures. There was a campaign to keep Tenby’s minor injuries unit open.

2015 saw the start of the junior doctors’ contract dispute:

“A junior doctors contract dispute in England led to industrial action being taken in 2015 and 2016. A negotiation between NHS Employers and the main UK doctor’s union, the British Medical Association (BMA), had been overshadowed by the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, threatening to impose certain aspects. The BMA balloted members in November 2015 and industrial action was scheduled for the following month. The initial action was suspended, although further talks broke down. Junior doctors took part in a general strike across the NHS in England on 12 January 2016, the first such industrial action in 40 years. Junior doctors again withdrew their labour for routine care on 10 February. On 26 April 2016, junior doctors withdrew from emergency and routine care, the first time this had happened.” [36]

The dispute concluded in 2019 with junior doctors getting an 8.2% pay rise over four years.

2015 and 2016 also saw NHS Student protests #BursaryorBust in response to plans to remove the nurse bursary in 2017. [37]

There were two judicial review campaigns in 2015 at Glan Clwyd Hospital and Ottery Hospital.

2016 saw the first rallies and demonstrations in support of the NHS Reinstatement Bill.

There was also a conference in defence of the NHS in Leeds and Birmingham; campaigning against privatisation in Oxfordshire; a campaign to stop CETA, the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, also see; an effective campaign to delay the Musculoskeletal (MSK) contract in Greenwich, also see; demonstration against the closure of Liverpool Women’s Hospital; a large demonstration and protest in London, a private ambulance driver strike in Sussex over not being paid; a successful campaign in getting Nottingham University Hospital Trust to cancel their cleaning contract with Carillion; a Keep Our St Helier Hospital (KOSHH) campaign; Save Chorley A&E. [38]

There were two wins in 2016. A successful campaign in Shrewsbury to stop the closure of an A&E. In Islington and Camden a contract for out-of-hours GP services was awarded to a “GP-led not-for-profit consortium, and taken off the private health giant, Care UK, following heavy criticism at Care UK’s handling of the service.”

There were three judicial review campaigns in 2016: planned closure of Bootham Park mental health hospital, [39] Devon CCG plans close medical beds in Honiton Hospital, planned changes to emergency services at University Hospital of South Manchester Foundation Trust.

2017 saw a large demonstration in London against NHS privatisation on March 4. 200,000 people attended from multiple campaigns, unions and thousands of health workers. [40]

Once the 2017 general election was called multiple groups set up the NHS Roadshow – #VoteNHS. It organised several events around the country and produced a video ‘So you’re thinking of voting Conservative’ which reached 11.5 million people. [41]

There was a lot of activity against privatisation, underfunding of the NHS and the Secretary of State for Health, Julian Hunt. There was a Hunt must go rally on January 12; Hands off our NHS Rally on January 28, 2017; a demonstration against the privatisation in Leicester on February 11; a North East March and Rally for the NHS on February 4; a demonstration in London against austerity and NHS cuts on November 21; Dorset campaign for a Judicial Review against Dorset CCG’s privatisation decisions; a campaign to judicially review a partial hospital closure in Devon was backed by Honiton Town Council; a campaign to block closure of urgent care unit at Kent and Canterbury hospital; an anti-NHS Cuts protest in Derbyshire on November 18;

Professor Stephen Hawking came out in support of the NHS and took on Jeremy Hunt, secretary of State for Health in England claims about the NHS. Prof Hawkings then joined the ongoing Judicial Review against Hunt, in a “critical challenge to the government’s attempt to circumvent Parliament and democratic scrutiny and to allow Accountable Care Organisations to operate in the NHS in England.” [42]

There were several wins against privatisation in 2017. This month NHS Campaigners in Southend have seen a U-turn on the proposed downgrading of Southend and Broomfield Hospitals’ A&Es. Local NHS commissioners in South East London have abandoned their flagship STP proposal for a 2-site elective orthopaedic surgery super centralisation. East Midlands Children’s Heart Unit and Bury and Prestwich Walk-In Centres were saved. Southmead hospital in Bristol cancels plans to set up a private company to employ staff. A successful campaign to keep NHS Professionals publicly owned. The Labour Party committed to restoring NHS through the NHS Reinstatement Bill.

There were several strikes by London hospital workers in 2017 for better pay. [43] Health workers at Kings College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust protested against ‘special measures’ and the imposition of an interim chair.

There were several demonstrations, marches, rallies and protests in 2018: Westminster Protest Winter Crisis; Southend Rally; large London anti-cut march in February; [44] a march for Science in April; a large march in June; [45] protest against undermining of GP practices in London; Stroud protest against Jeremy Hunt visit; several marches took places in Lincolnshire, Leicester, Selby, Brighton; Scrap ICPs & Support the NHS Bill: Rally & Petition at Parliament & DoH; [46] and Ealing Save Our NHS protests against Virgin Care. There were a lot of campaigns to defend the NHS in 2018. An NHS 70th birthday card campaign.

The #NHSTakeback campaign to get private companies out of the NHS. A campaign to give Albert Thompson the right to cancer care. A campaign to end privatisation in Coventry. North East London Save Our NHS (NELSON) ran a powerful campaign to say “no to racism, no to scapegoating and no to the Tories ‘Hostile Environment’ in the NHS and the wider community.”

There was a campaign to stop backdoor privatisation – SayNo2Subco. A campaign against Serco running track and trace. There was a campaign to save Poole A&E and Maternity for Christmas. The Defend Whittington Hospital Coalition (DWHC) has been campaigning to keep Grenfell construction company Rydon out of their hospital. A campaign for both health and social care to be publicly funded. A campaign to save Liverpool Women’s Hospital.

2018 saw the start of the #Justice4NHS campaign to take NHS England to court over the proposed payment mechanism in NHS England’s Accountable Care Organisation contract/Integrated Care Provider contract. “The contract is one of the options available to systems and commissioners to integrate care using a single contract for the provision of general practice, NHS and local authority services.” [47] This legal challenge went to the High Court, Court of Appeals and finally to the Supreme Court, where it was sadly defeated in 2019. [48]

There was strike action in Wigan over SubCo [49] and the head of the Royal College of Nursing resigned over the pay deal.

There were several judicial review campaigns: Monmouthshire council’s judicial review against hospital ward closure fails, Campaigners in Huddersfield won the right to judicial review of hospital closure, and South Yorkshire and Dorset.

There were a lot of wins in 2018. These include over private healthcare advertising in London; Essex campaign to keep blue light A&E services at three hospitals; [50] In Sheffield, a major success in halting closures of two important community walk-in centres; the Hands Off Huddersfield Royal Infirmary campaign (HOHRI) to keep the hospital open; [51] campaigns to keep Telford and Shrewsbury hospitals in Shropshire open; Wigan victory against SubCos; Dr Chris Day won his landmark legal battle that 54,000 junior doctors will have whistle-blowing protection; the court of appeal ruled that the decision to strike Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba from the medical register should be overturned; [52] plans to use a private company to recruit staff at Southmead Hospital in Bristol were cancelled after criticism and protests from campaigners, unions and workers; plans to close the Corby Urgent Care Centre were cancelled; plans in Leicester to move in-house staff to a private company were cancelled; a successful campaign to block a PFI hospital in Smethwick/West Birmingham to get a ‘publicly funded’ Midland Met Hospital instead; staff at Poole Hospital were saved from deportation; the campaign to stop the Royal Liverpool Private Finance Initiative (PFI) was successful. The campaign in Ealing to stop Virgin Health’s involvement in community health service was successful. [53]

There was also:

“Victories and delays were won in Bristol and in East Kent and Warrington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Trust and a pause was announced by NHS Improvement, stung into action.” [54]

There were several strikes in 2019 in Lincolnshire, Northern Ireland, Bradford, [55] and Harlow.

There were also several campaigns to defend the NHS in 2019: in Southend to stop the privatisation of NHS assets and public land; the Fossetts For The People campaign [56]; a campaign to stop Circle takeover of Nottingham hospital services; a trade deal campaign to keep Trump’s hands off our NHS!; [57] #NHS4All campaign; a campaign against racism in NHS; a campaign scrapping section 75; a campaign to take hospital catering back in-house; a patients not passports campaign; [58] and a campaign to tackle the mental health crisis

An app was developed to show the NHS cuts in your local area. There was a healthcare workers’ protest against charging for migrants in the NHS. A mental health summit and suicide crisis protest were organised.

There were several judicial review campaigns in 2019: QEQM hospital in Margate’s stroke unit closure judicial review fundraising campaign launched by Thanet residents; Northallerton Friarage Hospital campaigners apply for judicial review of A&E closure; Maternity Action launches judicial review of the policy of charging vulnerable migrant women for NHS maternity care; and a New Hospital Campaign in south west Hertfordshire, instead of renovating an old hospital.

There were three wins in 2019: Princess Alexandra Hospital domestics win the battle against outsourcing; a victory in Nottingham for the NHS over Circle Healthcare; and a victory for local campaigners as plans to close Charing Cross Hospital and further downgrade Ealing Hospital have been stopped.

Activity on the streets in 2020 included: a national day of action across the country in February; [59] a nurses march in July and London health workers pay rise protest in August; [60] in October there was a day of action to protect the NHS from trade deals saw Trumpkins and banner drops across the UK; NHS birthday protest; and a protest to end the Serco contract.

Protect Our NHS Bristol dumped a pile of manure outside Serco HQ, in protest at its appalling handling of test, track and trace during the Covid-19 pandemic.

NHS and healthcare campaigns in 2020 related to the Covid pandemic included: the People’s Covid Inquiry; the 6 demands petition to call a national lockdown before the government brought one in; the was a campaign for the test, track and trace to be restored to public hands [61] and Zero Covid Day of Action. Here is a summary of the Keep Our NHS public activities in 2020 listing several online activities.

Other campaigns included: The Patients not passports campaign; the BMA campaign against NHS privatisation; campaign to save Teignmouth Hospital. [62]

There was a successful campaign to stop the NHS from being part of a US trade deal and therefore open to more privatisation. This included a ‘Make your town an NHS trade deal free zone‘ and a day of action. [63]

There was a “groundswell of public support for the NHS, the numerous direct letters, articles and phone calls, and a petition over 300,000 signature-strong that have called the Lords to give their support to the NHS”. This resulted in the House of Lords voting to keep the NHS out of future trade deals. [64] Doctors launched a legal challenge against NHS England on the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect them from covid-19.

There were several strikes in the NHS in 2020: cleaning, portering and catering staff at Lewisham Hospital after private contractor ISS failed to pay wages; NHS workers outsourced to Sodexo join strikes; medical couriers organising a virtual strike rally against global giant Sonic Healthcare over pandemic practices; and security guards went on demanding equal employment conditions to university staff at St George’s University Medical School. GMB union launched an ‘After the Applause’ campaign, to move beyond clapping, calling on the public to back demands for increased pay for key workers.

There were several victories in 2020. Great Ormond Street Hospital workers beat outsourcing; a Devon Hospital was saved from cuts; the Tory government U-turn on the cancelling the NHS surcharge for migrant healthcare workers; NHS cleaners, caterers and porters were successful in ending outsourcing at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust in London; and in Haringey, ten care workers who were paid less than half the minimum wage took legal action against their care home employers and won.

2021 saw a large national protest in July for the NHS anniversary. There were national protests in opposition to the private company Centene taking over GP surgeries. July also saw a protest in London to end NHS underfunding and understaffing. Pensioners organised a waiting list protest in September in London. There was a protest in Bristol against Tory corruption, cronyism and privatisation

There was a large NHS pay dispute in 2021. In the Spring the government recommend a 1% pay increase for all NHS Staff to the Pay Review Body (PRB). This was met with anger across the NHS workforce. This proposed increase in pay compares to NHS staff seeing a fall in wages over the last 10 years in real terms of 15-20% due to wage restraint. [65] The Royal College of Nursing (RCN), one of several nursing unions in the NHS set up a strike fund in response. The Royal College of Nursing also organised training for its members on how to prepare for mobilising NHS workers. [66] In the summer the government increased the recommended pay increase to 3% although it was unclear if all of the 3% would be permanent and it excluded the 61,000 junior doctors. A national day of action and protests took place in early August. NHS unions balloting their members on if to accept or reject this offer and it was rejected by September. Unions then balloted their members on taking strike action. [67] In December, unions failed to meet the 50% threshold in a strike action ballot. This article describes the lessons to learn from this pay dispute. This article from December 2021, gives a good overview of the dispute and describes how although the 50% threshold was not met, of those that did vote, there was overwhelming support for strike action. This article describes how the Labour Party lost support amongst nurses for not supporting them in the pay dispute.

The group NHS Workers Say No formed in 2021 setting up the NHSPay15 campaign calling for a 15% increase in NHS workers pay.

There were strikes at a Jewish care home for fair wages, sick pay, and annual leave. There was a strike of 15,000 nurses in Northern Ireland over pay and staffing. Care workers in the North West

Health Workers United formed in 2021, a network of health workers that aim for “working class control over the means for a healthy life, and that worker and patient control of healthcare is a step towards that.”

This article describes how the NHS Uses Precarity as a Weapon Against Worker Organising.

There was a lot of activity against the Tory government’s Health and Social Care Bill. This included: 16 organisations calling for the NHS bill to be halted; local actions in July and November; 250,000 signing a petition against the bill; ‘Dont Blow It’ campaign aimed at putting pressure on MPs in marginal seats to vote again the Bill; and the ‘Your NHS Needs You’ campaign to protect the NHS from privatisation.

There were several other campaigns: NHS funding to tackle waiting lists campaign; a campaign to stop the NHS data grab; Nurses of Colour launch Racism Reporting Tool to track NHS racism; a Crush Covid campaign in Oxfordshire to bring ‘Find, Test, Trace, Isolate and Support’ back into local hands; a campaign to end Serco’s test and trace contract; and a campaign to stop the NHS being part of trade deals. [68]

There were also campaigns to remove Centene from running GP practics in London: North Central London and Hammersmith, which were successful; and North West London.

The inspiring Care Workers vs Covid-19 campaign in the North West resulted in thousands of care workers having their normal wages maintained for Covid-related absence, that was not the case in the rest of the country.

There were three judicial reviews: to stop Operose Health takeover of GP surgery contracts; to block the closure of Grantham A&E; and to stop the closure of the remaining hospital beds at Newmarket Hospital.

In 2022, NHS SOS organised a national day of action in February [69] and a petition calling for an emergency funding boost of £20 billion for the NHS.

Unite ran a campaign to oppose the Health and Social Care Bill. Everydoctor, a campaign group of doctors launched a digital map of privatised services in the NHS. We Own It is running a Rebuild the NHS campaign in response to:

“NHS across England will be reorganised. England will be divided into 42 new NHS bodies called Integrated Care Systems (ICS). Each ICS will be controlled by a board of directors with a duty to provide healthcare for people in our area. This reorganisation of the NHS provides our local NHS leaders with an opportunity to reset the direction of travel of our NHS. Instead of continuing full steam toward more privatisation they must put the needs of local people first.”

We Own It has a ‘Find my NHS’ tool so you can find your local ICS to send them an email. From a recent We Own It email using this tool, “13,000 of you have bypassed politicians and gone straight to your local NHS decision makers.” We Own It is now encouraging its supporters to write to their local press about this to put pressure on the Chairs of the ICS Boards. There was been a win on this, following a campaign including press coverage, Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire ICS have pledged that private providers will not join the ICS board.

We Own It organised a rally to stop the Vaccine Manufacturing Centre Sell Off! There was a GMB union campaign for sick pay and increase pay from the current poverty wages for G4S workers at Croydon Hospital. The Royal College of Nursing is campaigning for Fair Pay for Nursing, calling for an increase of 5%. There was a march in London to protest against the vaccine mandate for NHS workers. [70]

There was a judicial review that stopped the closure of Shropshire Closure of Bishop’s Castle Hospital. Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) had to overcome a legal challenge from local campaigners regarding plans to close local services.

Other wins included: workers who were outsourced to Serco won a victory ensuring 1,800 staff would be brought in-house on NHS contracts at Barts Health; campaigners were successful in keeping their local hospital open in the Southern Lake District.

NHS campaigning groups and health worker unions

There are several national campaigns, coalitions and groups.

Keep the NHS Public is a campaign since 2005 working to reverse NHS privatisation. It has 69 local groups. Here is a list of its campaigns.

Health Campaigns Together is a coalition since 2016 that states we need “biggest, broadest alliance if we are to win the fight to defend and restore our NHS.”

NHS SOS was launched in 2022, to bring together NHS groups, unions and groups across the left, calling for three demands

  • Approve emergency funding of £20 billion to save lives this winter
  • Invest in a fully publicly owned NHS & guarantee free healthcare for future generations
  • Pay staff properly: without fair pay, staffing shortages will cost lives [71]

We Own It campaign against privatisation and for rebuilding the NHS.

Other campaigning groups include 38 Degrees, Everydoctor, Our NHS, Patients 4 NHS, Protest Our NHS, 999 Call for the NHS, People vs PFI, NHS survival, Docs not Cops.

We Own It list several organisations fighting NHS privatisation here. There are several health-related groups listed here.

Health care unions are listed here under ‘ health unions’. There is also NHS Staff Voice, NHS workers say No, Nurses United.

Other organisations include: National Childbirth Trust, Alzheimer’s Disease Organisations, Socialist Health Association

The NHS Support Federation are an “independent group of researchers and journalists that work to ensure that we all have fair access to high-quality healthcare. We support our NHS and its staff, through evidenced-based campaigns and policy discussions.”

Social Investigations, researched matters of social interest, especially the NHS.

Housing Movement

I’ve divided housing movements into 9 areas.

General history

The Settlement Movement was a reformist social movement between the 1880s and peaked around the 1920s to bring the rich and the poor of society together. Here is a history of the housing and building movement. In the early twentieth century, socialist guilds across Britain built thousands of quality homes for working families. There have been slum clearance movements in the 1930s and 1960s/70s. The black and minority ethnic housing association movement started in the 1980s, there are still 75 active associations. Here is a grassroots history of housing.

Squatting and occupations

Here and here are histories of squatting, occupying land or an empty house. There was: the London Squatters’ Campaign in the 1960s/70s; the People’s Republic of Freestonia in the 1970s; Pullens Estate squatters in 1986; [72] Brixton Black Panthers occupied a private property in 1972. In 2009 housing activists occupied an MP’s home related to the expenses scandal. In 2021 Collina Street in Maryhill, Glasgow was occupied for social housing and Baile House, Glasgow was occupied. In 2022, a Russian billionaire’s London mansion was occupied.

Tenant movements

Several tenants and renters unions have formed in the last decade, some national and others have a local focus. I’ve listed them below. See this article on critical support for renters unions.

Here is a 2011 radical article on tenant struggles in Scotland. Tenant unions in Scotland include Glasgow Housing Action from the 2010s and Glasgow Tenants Action. Here is an article on Housing Associations in Glasgow. Living Rent campaigns for tenant rights and has eight local branches. [73]

ACORN campaigns nationally for tenant rights and other community issues. [74] It has eight staff offices around England and fourteen branches and groups in England and Wales. [75] This page lists its campaigns and this page its achievements. Here is a report on ACORN Brighton.

ACORN Bristol has confronted landlords multiple times, [76] stopped multiple evictions, [77] ran several campaigns to ensure homes are safe and habitable [78] and successfully campaigned on the Ethical Lettings Charter.

In Leeds, in 2019 four tenants in Leeds took their landlord to court and won their rent back

Leeds. Greater Manchester Housing Action have taken on developers and private landlords. Manchester also has the Greater Manchester Tenants Union.

There is also Swindon Tenants Campaign Group; Renters Reform Coalition; and Generation Rent, see their campaigns here.

In London, there is the London Renters’ Union (LRU), which “has been set up by a coalition of housing groups and social justice groups including Radical Housing Network, Take Back The City, Generation Rent, Digs (Hackney Renters), Rent Strike and People’s Empowerment Alliance for Custom House (PEACH). Our advisory network includes the New Economics Foundation, Advice4Renters, and the Migrants Rights Network. We’re currently building our first branches in Newham & Leytonstone, Hackney and Lewisham, and we’re working with housing activists and renters across London to set up branches all over our city.”

Here is a report on LRU from 2019. LRU ran the ‘Can’t Pay Won’t Pay’ campaign in 2020. [79]

LRU stood up to estate agents in 2022.

Other tenant action groups in London are: Housing Action Southwark & Lambeth (HASL); [80] Dorchester Court Tenants’ Union [81] and ACORN has several London branches.

Next month a relevant book is coming out – ‘Tenants: The People on the Frontline of Britain’s Housing Emergency’ by Vicky Spratt.

Rent strikes

Here and here are radical histories of rent strikes in Britain. And here is a radical analysis of the tenants movement in the US.

There have been rent strikes in Leeds in 1914; Glasgow in 1915; [82] Stepney in 1930s; [83] Peckham in 1930s; East London in 1938-9; St Pancras in 1959-61; Liverpool in 1968 and 1969; East London in 1968–1970; Kirby, Liverpool in 1972; [84] and Clay Cross, Derbyshire in 1972-3.

Student rent strikes

There were student rent strikes at Sussex University in the 1970s. [85] More recently there have been multiple rent strikes at UCL in 2015 and 2016. [86] There was a University rent strike wave in 2016 and 2017. [87] In 2020 there were student rent strikes in Cambridge and Manchester. [88] Rent strike student handbooks were recently created, see here and here. There was another student rent strike wave in 2021. [89]

Resistance on housing estates

Kwajo Tweneboa campaigns to improve the conditions for Britain’s housing association tenants, who are forced to live in homes that are infested, overrun with mould, and on the brink of collapse.

There were several housing estate campaigns in London. In Hackney, a group of tenants, Somerford Grove Renters, fought back against extortionate rent and eviction by their billionaire landlord.

On the Carpenters Estate in Stratford, residents fought off plans by the University of London to build a branch of the University. Resistance to the Sweets Way evictions in Barnet in 2015. [90] There was a victory after Earls Court housing estate that was under threat of demolition was handed back to the council in 2019.

This article describes several campaigns:

“In London, the residents left on the Carpenters Estate in Stratford, east London managed to fight off the plans of the University of London to take over the estate and build a branch of the university. Campaigners in West Hendon estate in North London have managed to keep their homes for years, despite the constant threat of eviction. New Era estate in Shoreditch, London mounted one of the most successful campaigns. They managed to ‘persuade’ the US development company Westbrook to abandon attempts to turn the property into up-scale private flats and now the estate is to be turned over to a social housing association. Currently new campaigns are springing up around London, such as the Aylesbury Estate in south London. Even though squatting residential properties is now a criminal offence, they are using occupation as a tool in the struggle, physically taking over empty flats. Campaigns are also fighting individual evictions and against private landlords. Focus E15, [91] who ran a successful campaign to get 29 single mothers rehoused in the local area rather than being sent out of London, continues to fight individual cases and also organised a militant protest at the British Credit Awards (aka the ‘Bailiff’s Ball’). Solidarity networks are also being set up (eg. in Glasgow and Bristol), a way of supporting individuals who are facing any housing problem such as losing a deposit or landlord refusal to do repairs. Private renter groups are also being organised, tackling issues such as rent rises.”

There was a win in Edinburgh when council tenants stopped the sell-off of council housing. In South Leeds, there was resistance to stop private developers’ plans to demolish the homes of a close-knit former mining community to build executive housing.

The Eviction Resistance network was active in London from 2012 to 2016. It lists local groups here.

Yes to Fair Redevelopment are against “the destruction of structurally sound council homes. No to the removal of green space, play areas and community facilities. We want fair redevelopment on our council estates, green spaces, parks and community spaces.”

Housing campaigns and protests

There have been at least two campaigns to stop the compulsory purchase of homes. The Derker Community Action Group in Oldham in 2004 and Elizabeth Pascoe’s fight in North Liverpool in the 2010s.

In 2013, there were national protests against the ‘bedroom tax’ – a cut in housing benefits for claimants whose homes have a spare room There are active groups to reduce the number of empty homes. 2016 saw a broad campaign against the Housing and Planning Act. There is ongoing campaigning to end Britain’s housing crisis of affordable homes.

Following the Grenfell fire, two groups were set up: Grenfell United and Justice4Grenfell. There has been ongoing campaigning for housing, services and support from Kensington and Chelsea Council. There has been support from Housing Action Southwark And Lambeth. [92] In response to the Grenfell fire, there was been a campaign by ‘End our cladding scandal‘ to get all dangerous cladding replaced. [93] In 2022, the government announced it is going to force developers to fix the problem.

There was a win in Bristol in 2017, Mayor Marvin Rees was forced to scrap plans to change the

Council Tax Reduction Scheme, which would have removed the full council tax discount from 16,000 of Bristol’s poorest households. Survivors and ACORN Bristol campaigned for accountability on safe houses. ACORN Bristol successful campaigned to make the Tenancy Fees Act illegal, stopping estate agents from charging rip-off letting fees. They also campaign for affordable housing in new developments. [94]

There was a successful campaign to scrap ‘no fault’ Section 21 evictions in 2019. [95] There is a campaign to introduce national rent controls. [96] The Renters Reform Coalitions is campaigning for a Renters Reform Bill. During the Covid-19 crisis, there were calls to ‘cancel the rent’ [97] and to organise against evictions. [98]

Members of the Labour Party have launched several campaigns: Labour Tenants United in 2020; Labour Campaign for Council Housing; and Labour Homelessness Campaign.

This article lists the big charities working with homeless people and campaigning to end homelessness in Britain. There is also Homeless Link. Positive Action in Housing is an independent, anti-racist homelessness and human rights charity dedicated to supporting refugees and migrants to rebuild their lives.

There is an inspiring story from 2021. Marsh Farm in Luton came together to build a bottom-up model of regeneration – one which puts the community’s interest before private profit. Here is a report on 2021 campaigns against council housing and Low Traffic Neighbourhoods in London.

2022 saw national campaigning by housing association residents against spiralling service charges.

See the lists of housing protests in the ‘Political protest in Britain, 1985-2019’ dataset.

There are groups listed on the Left Map.

Empty Homes campaigns for empty homes to be brought into use for people in housing need.

The Radical Housing Network of groups and activists fighting for housing justice.

Social Action Housing Campaign is “a network of tenants, residents, workers and activists in housing associations and cooperatives. Together we campaign to improve the lives of those who live in housing association properties and to reduce the commercialisation of the sector.”

Tower Blocks UK was “founded in the 1980s as the National Tower Blocks Network, we regrouped in 2017 as Tower Blocks UK – a hub for sharing information and resources with groups and individuals who live in, or are concerned about tower block housing safety issues in the UK.”

Housing rights

Several organisations support people with their housing rights: Shelter; [99] Legal Action Group; Housing Rights in NI; Citizens Advice; ARHAG for refugees and migrants.

Alternative communities/housing

There are the ethnic Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller communities who have to fight for their survival.

There are several alternative housing movements: community land trusts, cohousing, housing coops [100], intentional communities, and communes.


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  6. Social Movements in Britain, Paul Byrne, 1197, p113
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