HUNDREDS of people joined a protest at NHS "privatisation" with campaigners following in the footsteps of the historic Jarrow March.
The People’s March for the NHS, covering 300 miles from Jarrow to Westminster, has been organised by a group of working mothers from Darlington, who using the name #darlomums on social networking sites.
Several hundred people attended a rally in Jarrow, before up to 300 set off on the first leg to Chester-le-Street.
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A 50-strong core group of marchers will follow the original route undertaken by the 1936 Jarrow marchers, in a bid to raise awareness around what they say is the growing privatisation of NHS care, the impact of cuts on the health service and to call for the return of responsibility for delivering NHS services to the Secretary of State for Health.
The march takes them through 23 different towns and cities over three weeks and they are expected to be joined by more than 3,000 supporters along the route.
Darlington mum Rehana Azam, who co-founded the group with Joanna Adams, said the 999 Call for the NHS campaign was created in response to the Government passing three pieces of legislation which have led to increasing privatisation of the NHS.
Mrs Azam, who is a GMB union national officer for health, said: “We are outraged at the assault by Government on our most prized possession, the NHS.
“In just over four months, 3,000 people have registered to join the People’s March and we are seeing this number increase every day.
“We aim to collect local NHS stories from all over the country on our journey to London and we will present the concerns of the general public to MPs and serve notice to every politician who has voted to dismantle our NHS.
“We’re not going to let them forget what they have done.”
Among those showing solidarity as they set off from Chester-le-Street today (Sunday, August 17) was Durham Police and Crime Commissioner Ron Hogg.
He said: “I think it’s vitally important to express our root concerns about the NHS - and the fact that they are recreating the Jarrow march all those years ago really brings home the poignancy.
“This is a real threat to the whole country and I commend what these people are doing.”
North-East MEP Judith Kirton-Darling said: “There has been warm support along the route, with people clapping and beeping their car horns.
“It is clear a lot of people are concerned about what the Government is doing to the NHS.”
The marchers will stay in Ferryhill overnight before making their way to Darlington tomorrow (Monday), where a rally will be held in the Dolphin Centre at 7pm.
For more information visit www.999callfornhs.org.uk.