Thousands of people on Saturday joined a protest against the privatisation of health services to mark the end of a 300-mile march organised by a group of mothers from County Durham.
The march throughout the streets of London supporting the continuation of NHS drew a crowd of around 5,000 people. Photograph: Mel Pressmen/Demotix/Corbis
About 30 people took three weeks to walk from South Tyneside toLondon in the footsteps of the Jarrow Crusade of 1936 which highlighted unemployment and poverty during the Great Depression.
Organisers said 5,000 people took part in the last leg from Red Lion Square in Holborn to Trafalgar Square, where they were addressed by shadow health secretary Andy Burnham.
Speaking before the rally, Mr Burnham said the “Darlo mums” – the six women from Darlington who started the march – symbolise the concern felt by millions across the UK for the future of the NHS.
He said: “Surely even the great Nye Bevan couldn’t have imagined a group with more faith and fight for his NHS than these Darlington mums. In them, David Cameron has more than met his match and their fighting spirit will give hope to people everywhere that the NHS can be rescued from the damage caused by his government.”
A woman wearing a ‘People’s March For The NHS’ shirt holds her arms up while chanting. Photograph: Mel Pressmen/Demotix/Corbis
Protesters went through a number of towns and cities, including Leeds, Sheffield and Leicester, holding rallies along the way. They are calling for the repeal of the 2012 Health and Social Care Act which they say has opened up the NHS to privatisation.
March founder Joanna Adams said: “It’s been magic really. You only have to look over there [at the protesters gathered] to see people are behind the NHS and support what we’re saying. Profit has no place in public health.”
A Department of Health spokesman said: “Use of the private sector in the NHS represents only 6% of the total NHS budget – an increase of just 1% since May 2010.
“Charities, social enterprises and other healthcare providers continue to play an important role for the NHS, as they have done for many years – however, it is now local doctors and nurses who make decisions about who is best placed to provide care for their patients.”