Sunday, September 15, 2013

Bethnal Green Hospital - The First Casualty Dept Work-In 1978

Hospital staff at Bethnal Green hospital, east London were told in October 1977 that the local Area Health Authority wanted to reduce services at the hospital to just care of the elderly. Immediately a Tower Hamlets Action Committee was established with over 700 people attending the first meeting held on 24th November 1977.

On the 26th November, 102 East London GP's signed a 13 point statement opposing the closure

Bethnal Green and Stepney Trades Union Council issued a detailed paper objecting to the plans and asking that alternatives be drawn up to develop Bethnal Green.

On the 28th January 1978 over 500 attended a march from Weavers Field to the London Hospital to protest at the closures.

In March it was agreed that a regular picketing of the hospital should take place to highlight the plight of the hospital

On the16th March 1978 at another huge meeting Bethnal Green Hospital is declared unanimously a "protected hospital"

A planned march against hospital closures in East London arranged by Plaistow Hospital campaign on 18th March is banned by the police due to events in Lewisham

30th March 1978 60,000 marches pass Bethnal Green hospital on their way to the Rock Against racism Carnival in Victoria Park

10th March a 2 hour stoppage is staged in five East London hospital's in opposition to the health cuts

30th March East London Hospital unions call strike action in nine hospitals for between six and twenty four hours, the Royal London and Mile End hospitals stop all routine work for 24 hours. 800 campaigners march to the Health Authority headquarters to protest


1st July 1978 at 8pm ,the time of the official closure, the hospital staff, applauded by a large crowd of local people and filmed by the News at Ten (ITV) put up a notice announcing the occupation of the casualty unit at Bethnal Green hospital. Detailed arrangements are made with medical staff, GP's , The Emergency Bed Service (EBS) to guarantee admissions and safety.

The first hospital casualty work-in in history begins with patients arriving at 8:02

On the 30th July managers arrive at the hospital threatening staff with legal action, nursing staff instruct under threat of dismissal to move, medical staff who refuse to do so are "harangued" and threatened. The Bethnal green Hospital work-in is called off on 3oth July 1978 having treated over one thousand local patients

Key individuals included - Many volunteers and Dr David Widgery ,Dr Leibson, Dr Thompson, Mr Frohn (Consultant) Sister Gainsford, Mrs Cox NUPE,, Zena Lee, Ann Sargent, Albert Vanner, Jane Salvage, Kambiz Boomla any many others

Keep Bethnal Green Hospital Campaign booklet
The NHS in East London - What Lies Ahead ? Jane Salvage and Kambiz Boomla

Bethnal Green Hospital was occupied by staff and supporters on 1st July 1978