A MUM-OF TWO who ‘would not be here’ without the NHS led campaigners in celebrating the service’s 69th birthday.

Samantha Wathen, 35, of North Swindon, led the protest at the gates of the Great Western Hospital on Wednesday afternoon.

The event, which was organised by the Swindon branch of Keep Our NHS Public, was one of a string of ‘birthday’ celebrations across the country overseen by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and other groups.

Samantha, a former teacher, established the Swindon branch of Keep Our NHS Public, earlier this year.

“The idea of community healthcare was formed here – the idea of workers getting together came from Swindon,” she said. “We should be justly proud of it.”

The mum-of-two and former teacher began campaigning for the NHS after her own experiences of ‘amazing’ care after complications with the births of her two children. She said: “I wouldn’t be here without the NHS.”

16 campaigners tucked into NHS cupcakes, as they signed a huge laminated ‘birthday card’ - containing a number of campaign demands.

The group are calling for ‘fair pay’ for NHS staff, demanding an end to cuts or ‘cash-driven closures’ of services, and asking for a ‘fully-funded, publicly owned and provided National Health Service’.

Sarah Newman, co-organiser of Swindon Keep Our NHS Public, said that her son had received lifesaving care in Swindon and Bristol after being diagnosed with Leukaemia two years ago. "The NHS was fantastic. The support we got was excellent."

Ian Gleed, 52, from Chiseldon, came to the event after seeing it advertised on Facebook: "I'm very passionate about the NHS. It's the envy of the world," he said.

Nigel Costley, South West TUC regional secretary, said: “The NHS was issue number one for voters in Swindon. On its 69th birthday, our health service is crying out for funding, while brave NHS workers badly need a pay rise. As well as a birthday card the NHS needs a Get Well Soon card.”

Justin Tomlinson, Conservative MP for North Swindon, said: “It is disappointing but not surprising that this Labour-sponsored campaign ignores the facts, talking down the great work of our local health professionals.

“We have rightly delivered record funding for the NHS, with a welcome clear commitment for a further £8bn per year - meaning we will spend over a half a trillion in this Parliament.

“Locally, working with the late Dr Peter Crouch, myself and Robert Buckland MP have secured a 50 per cent increase in health spending in Swindon - to £127m per year - helping us secure 340 more nurses and 142 more doctors at the GWH.”

Sarah Church, who contested the South Swindon seat for Labour at the General Election, said: “Nationally, while there’s more cash for the NHS, there’s growing demand. To meeting growing demand you have to have to invest more. We’ve got a population that’s growing and living longer.”