A JARROW March-style crusade against the alleged “privatisation” of the National Health Service says it is growing in support as it heads to Parliament.
About 500 people gathered at Jarrow Town Hall on Saturday as campaigners set off on the People’s March for the NHS, which is carrying a petition in support of saving a walk-in facility at Palmer Community Hospital, in Jarrow, from closure.
Neil Foster, Northern TUC policy and campaigns officer, who joined the march in North Yorkshire this week, said: “There has been loads of media interest and passers-by have been really receptive.
“Even in a Conservative area like North Yorkshire, there has been great support, with many people concerned about the future of the NHS under the present Government, and that things are changing for the worse.
“The Jarrow petition is just one of the health causes being highlighted along the route, and there was another from Northallerton, where people are concerned about the closure of a maternity service.
“There are about 60 people on the march at present, with people joining different legs of the march when they can, and when their work allows.”
Thousands of names have been collected on a petition against the closure of the walk-in unit for minor injuries, at Palmer Community Hospital.
Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn spoke out against the closure plans at a rally before the march set off and organisers of the People’s March for the NHS will carry the petition to London, where it will be presented to MPs when the health crusade reaches Parliament on September 6.
Mr Foster added: “The stories about issues within the NHS are growing as the march makes its way to London. There were more than 500 people at Jarrow at the weekend, and health issues are being highlighted along the route.”
Officials of NHS South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) have announced plans to close the Jarrow walk-in centre as part of a shake-up of the local health service, which could see the creation of a new care hub at South Tyneside District Hospital, South Shields.
Health bosses say the plans could reduce the number of unnecessary visits to A&E and save up to £2m a year.
A new urgent care “one-stop shop” could be created at the district hospital and access improved to GPs and pharmacies for minor illnesses and ailments.
However, the CCG has stressed there are no plans to close Palmer Community Hospital.