A birthday wish made.
Byline: Kathryn Riddell Reporter
CAMPAIGNERS gathering across the North East to celebrate the NHS's 68th birthday have urged the public to help secure the future of the health service.
Shoppers and workers on their lunch break were handed slices of birthday cake at Grey's Monument in Newcastle as trade union Unison marked 68 years since the creation of the NHS.
Balloons and banners helped to create a party atmosphere as passers-by wrote birthday messages in a giant card before signing Unison's petition to urge the Government not to scrap bursaries for student nurses.
In the Autumn statement, George Osborne announced the scrapping of the NHS bursary for new student nurses, midwives and allied health professions in England from 2017.
A Unison survey conducted last year showed that nine in 10 (91%) of student nurses would not have applied for the nursing degree without access to the bursary which the Government intends to scrap next year.
Helen Kilpatrick, Unison rep, was at the rally and said: "With the NHS's 68th birthday we wanted to the raise the profile of what's happening within the NHS.
"Taking away student bursaries will make it harder for a lot of people to take up nursing and understaffing could lead to the Government privatising everything.
"We want to celebrate the birthday and the next 68 years."
Under the current NHS bursary system, no fees are charged and students are entitled to a combination of a nonmeans tested bursary, a means-tested bursary and a 'reduced rate' student loan. This will be replaced with the standard undergraduate system, with fees of up to PS9,000 a year and a much larger student loan for maintenance.
Unison convener for the Northern Region, Nicky Ramanandi, said: "The event is to celebrate the birthday of the NHS.
"It's a really critical time in terms of public services. The NHS is one of those services that's under attack. The threat of privatisation is very real so events like this today are really important highlighting the good work that our NHS workers do.
Unison say the Student Nurse bursary enables people from all walks of life to commit to the training to become one of the half a million-plus nurses, midwives and allied health professionals required to keep the NHS running.
Nicky Ramanadi from Unison
Andrea, Lizzie and Amy Cropper
Alison Jackson and Craig Smart from Unison