FIFTY doughty walkers on the 300-mile People’s March for the NHS from Jarrow to London were welcomed by hundreds of supporters at a rally in Leeds last night .
They had received a phenomenal welcome in the town of Harrogate in Tory shire heartland before marching to Leeds.
Marcher Rehana Azam, national officer with responsibility for the NHS with general union GMB and one of the march organisers, said: “The people of Harrogate took the marchers in and gave us beds for the night.
“This is the real ‘big society’ — people looking after other people. This government thinks people care only about themselves. But what we are experiencing demonstrates that people will unite together to support each other, and we are finding that they are uniting behind us and the National Health Service.”
The People’s March for the NHS was the idea of a group of mothers in Darlington in north-east England.
Thousands saw the 50 marchers off last Saturday, and thousands more are joining them on the different legs of the journey which is taking them through 23 towns and cities on their way to London, where they will deliver a “999 Call for the NHS” to MPs.
Support for the marchers is spreading.
“We’ve got people who have arrived from Manchester. North West ambulance service is joining us,” said Rehana.
Yesterday evening a rally organised by Yorkshire and Humber region of the TUC greeted the marchers.
Today public service workers are due to join them to march to Wakefield.
Adrian O’Malley, secretary of Mid-Yorkshire Health Branch of Unison, said: “We are supporting this magnificent protest march because this is a fight for the very existence of the NHS in the face of private profiteers who are cashing in on the so-called market in health.
“If we don’t stop them, the NHS will be entirely in private hands within five years”
The marchers and supporters will stage a rally in Wakefield shopping precinct at 3.30pm today after being joined by a feeder march from Halifax and Huddersfield, where accident and emergency units are under threat.