A group of people are currently walking towards London today in support of our National Health Service. In fact, the People’s March for the NHS has been going strongly since it left Jarrow on 16 August.
It has now reached Market Harborough in south Leicestershire and has another 100 or so miles to go before arriving at the Houses of Parliament on 6 September. Following the basic route of the 1936 Jarrow Crusade, the People’s March for the NHS aims to make the public aware of what the coalition government has been doing to our NHS, and what has been happening to our hospitals and health services.
A key issue is the creeping commercialisation of our NHS, something that will only increase as a result of the Health and Social Care Act. This removed from the Secretary of State, responsibility for the health of UK citizens; and transferred clinical commissioning to local “commissioning groups” opening up a major point of access for private providers.
Now as you may have heard, David Cameron is of the view that as long as the service is free at the point of use, it doesn’t matter who provides it. But without effective regulation, commercial health care providers have no obligation to provide an integrated and universal service. Indeed, there is a very real danger, as Steve Smith explain’s on Big Up the NHS, that we will drift into US style provision. I doubt very few people in this country would want that.
So the People’s March is so much more than a publicity stunt – it is taking forwards an important message, and showing this right-wing coalition that not only are they are completely out of touch, but that we care deeply about our NHS.