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Jeremy Corbyn: The Private Sector Won’t Save the NHS

As Labour and the Tories pledge to continue allowing private interests to carve up our NHS for profit, we must fight as hard as Nye Bevan did against the profiteers wrecking our health service.

(Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

In Islington North, we believe healthcare is a human right. Together, we have stood by our principles to defend our local services. In 2010, we marched down Holloway Road to protest the planned closure of the Whittington Hospital A&E department and we won. Now, in Islington North, we are fighting for the very future of our NHS and we must win.

After 14 years of systematic underfunding and stealth privatisation, our NHS is on its knees. Waiting lists are at a record high. Hospital bed shortages are fuelling the mental health crisis. Our broken social care system is denying vulnerable people the support they need.

Last year, for the first time in the history of the NHS, junior doctors and consultants took joint strike action for pay restoration. Our NHS is nothing without the cleaners, doctors, nurses, ambulance workers and reception staff that keep it running. Overworked and underpaid, NHS staff are quitting the service in search of better pay and conditions elsewhere. Last year, the Tories passed anti-strike legislation in the name of ‘minimum safety levels.’ If they cared about minimum safety levels in our hospitals, they would support NHS workers, who are striking for the safety of us all.

We will not tackle the crisis in our NHS unless we tackle the root causes of its collapse: underfunding and privatisation. Public sector cuts have produced a lethal, toxic combination; they have increased the pressures on our healthcare service (due to poorer nutrition, social isolation, and inadequate housing) and reduced the NHS’s capacity to respond.

We didn’t just warn against the dangers of austerity. Before that, we warned against the dangers of Private Finance Initiatives (PFI). We were ignored, and our local hospital paid a heavy price. As many of you will know, the Whittington Hospital is being sued by a PFI firm. It is outrageous that those who sought to make money out of the NHS are now looking to make even more during an unprecedented healthcare crisis.

Our message to them and to anyone else looking to promote private healthcare is as clear today as it has ever been: keep your hands off our NHS. We should all be extremely alarmed that Labour’s manifesto has dropped its previously held promise that the ‘NHS is not for sale’. Expanding the market for the private sector can only end up hollowing out a service that is meant to provide a comprehensive service for all. The rationing of services creates a two-tiered system; those who can afford it can access the treatment they need, while the poorest are left to languish on rising waiting lists. Health care should be available for everyone, irrespective of their wealth. That is why the NHS was founded and it’s time to rediscover that foundational purpose.

We will not save our NHS by continuing Tory underfunding and privatisation. We will only save it by restoring healthcare as a fully public, fully funded service for all. Today, I will join health workers and campaigners in my constituency for an emergency rally to save our NHS. I will then walk to the Whittington Hospital to make the following pledge.

As the independent MP for Islington North, I will always defend a fully public, fully funded NHS. I promise to:

  • Campaign to end all outsourcing and privatisation of the NHS, and oppose a two-tiered healthcare system

  • Be on the side of the Whittington, its staff and its patients against attacks from the government and PFI firms

  • Never take donations from private healthcare

  • Support NHS staff on strike for fair pay, for patient safety and for the future of our NHS

  • Advocate for the integration of mental health support within our NHS

  • Speak up for a National Care Service, freely available to all those who need it, wherever they need it, whenever they need it

  • Defend a woman’s right to safe and legal reproductive care; our healthcare system needs to empower women to make decisions about their own care during pregnancy

If people want an independent voice in Parliament to stand up for a publicly run NHS, then come and join our campaign in Islington North at I am standing as an independent candidate, running on the same principles I’ve always had. That includes the principle of free universal healthcare.