Opponents of National Health Service privatisation have today (3 September) hung a banner from Westminster Bridge in central London reading 'Save Our NHS'.
Members of NHS Direct Action dropped the banner from the bridge, which is next to Parliament, at 8am this morning. Parliament re-opens today after the summer break.
They are protesting against what they describe as the “rapid dismantling, privatisation and destruction of the NHS”. They say the action was taken in solidarity with the “999 March”, a group of people walking from Jarrow to London, where they will arrive this weekend.
Today also marks the 75th anniversary of the UK's entry into the second world war, the aftermath of which was the context for the creation of the NHS. The activists this morning pointed out that the post-war government faced a much larger budgetary deficit than exists in the UK today.
“Out of that crisis, they created hope: the NHS and the welfare state”, declared a statement from NHS Direct Action this morning.
They insisted, “This shows that austerity and privatisation are not the answer to the 'crisis'. In fact, a privatised NHS will actually cost us more than the traditional NHS we are losing, according to studies comparing other countries who have private or national healthcare systems.”
Critics point out that the Health and Social Care Act 2012 continues to allow private companies to buy up more and more of the health service. With the general election coming up in May, NHS Direct Action are calling upon the parties to make a stand for the NHS.
Clare Smith, a spokesperson for the group, quoted Aneurin Bevan, the minister who oversaw the creation of the NHS in the 1940s. Bevan said that the NHS would stand as long as there are those who will fight for it. Smith insisted that this statement “has never been more relevant than today”.
She added, “If we stand idly by, the government’s privatisation agenda will continue to roll out and we will soon have a health system akin to the USA's, where ill health can bankrupt and a third have no access to healthcare at all. We challenge all who believe that healthcare should be a right not a privilege to stand up and fight. The NHS has been there for all of us in our times of need; it is time we were there in its.”