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THOUSANDS of public health campaigners gathered in central London on Saturday to stand in solidarity with striking NHS workers and to demand an end to the Tories’ creeping privatisation plans.
Protesters were joined by public-sector workers, trade unionists and MPs, including Labour’s Richard Burgon and John McDonnell, who led a banner through the capital’s streets.
The action, organised by the SOS NHS coalition of more than 50 organisations, including Keep Our NHS Public (KONP) and We Own It, began outside Warren Street station and was followed by a rally.
Speakers highlighted what privatisation was doing to the health system and spoke out against the government’s racist asylum policies that also have an impact on the service.
We Own It director Cat Hobbs told the crowd that the government wants the NHS to fail to be able to hand it over to private companies.
She said: “Our NHS is not a profit-making opportunity. Our NHS does not have a ‘for sale’ sign around its neck.
“In fact, our NHS is the most civilised thing that this country has ever invented.”
Ms Hobbs said that most of the public want the NHS as a fully public service and called on Labour to commit to reinstating it as such.
Mr Burgon sent a message of solidarity to striking workers demanding fair pay and fighting to save the NHS.
“What a contrast the NHS workers are to this rotten Tory government,” he said.
“The Tory government spends its time ruining people’s lives, NHS workers spend it saving people’s lives.”
He sent a special thanks to all migrant workers in the NHS for their compassion.
Protesters marched through London’s busy West End before convening at Whitehall between 10 Downing Street and Parliament Square.
Peace and Justice Project founder Jeremy Corbyn said the NHS should not be run under “the rather weird philosophy of creating an internal market in what is a basic public service.”
The former Labour leader highlighted the issue of a mental health crisis not being adequately addressed and on women giving up their careers to become unpaid carers due to a lack of social care.
Calling for a national care service, he said: “I’m fed up with being told in Parliament that the issue of social care is that it’s too expensive.
“It’s too expensive for the poorest people in this country not to be able to get decent social care.”
Mr Corbyn said the NHS has been built on the labour of migrants who “came to this country to give their all.
“Our health depends on the huge numbers of overseas workers who have come here, made their homes here and made us such a fantastic contribution,” he said.
“The people who put their lives in great danger to cross the channel are the doctors, carers and engineers of tomorrow.
“We’re proud of the workers in the NHS and we will stand alongside those people seeking a place of safety in this world.
“We will not turn our backs on them.”
Closing the rally, KONP co-chairman Dr Tony O’Sullivan said Britain was up against a “government contemptuous of public services [and] public servants.”
He said: “The government has blood its hands because of its cruel and vindictive policies.
“The underfunding of the NHS has demoralised our staff and weaken our services to the worst point that I have ever seen it.
“Privatisation, alongside underfunding, has exploited the NHS, weakened it, fragmented it further. And that’s government policy.”
He called on the public to join campaigners to show the government that it is “unpopular, racist, corrupt and finished” and to stand with NHS workers.
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