HUNDREDS of people turned out as a new ‘Jarrow Crusade’ set off for London at the weekend.
About 500 people gathered to see the march leave from Jarrow Town Hall on Saturday in protest at what they see as the “privatisation” of the National Health Service.
The People’s March for the NHS has been organised by a group of mothers from Darlington, County Durham, and aims to see protesters walk 300 miles, arriving at Parliament on September 6.
GMB union officer Rehana Azam, one of those taking part, said the “motive of profit” is coming before healthcare.
An NHS spokesman denied this, saying the NHS budget has been increased by £12.7bn, and it is committed to providing a free service.
Organisers say they hoped other people would join them for part or all of the march.
They aim to follow the route of the historic Jarrow Crusade in 1936 when 200 men – led by Jarrow MP Ellen Wilkinson – marched to Parliament in protest at huge unemployment figures.
The NHS march set off after a rally which featured speeches from Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn and Lizi Gray, whose great-grandfather, Michael McLoughlin, took part in the original march.
The march organisers, known as the “Darlomums”, say they did not want to “passively watch the rapid dismantling, privatisation and destruction” of the NHS.
They believe the Government’s Health and Social Care Act has led to increasing privatisation of NHS services.
A spokesman said: “We don’t want to see private companies operating in the NHS under the heading of “efficiency” when we know they are accountable to their shareholders, who are only interested in maximum profit before patient healthcare.”
About 40 protesters are expected to walk all the way.
Ms Azam said: “We’re going to collect stories as we pass through 23 towns and cities.
“It’s over three weeks and nearly 300 miles. We will collect all those stories and we will deliver them to the politicians.”