If it were necessary for the People’s March for the NHS to have a symbol or a figurehead who embodied the purpose of the endeavour, then I found it today in Geoff Berriman. On his 82nd birthday he joined NHS campaigners on the fourth leg of their march from Jarrow to London to draw attention to the plight of the NHS and the relentless drive to privatisation. Geoff told me that he was originally from the North East and had marched yesterday on the Ferry Hill to Darlington leg and again today on the Darlington to Northallerton leg. He lives now in North Staffordshire where he is in remission from prostate cancer.
He said he had come on the march to show his love, support and thanks for our National Health Service, that he was quite literally the image of the NHS working and walking.
What Geoff had not realised but was horrified to hear was that the cancer care service he has received in Staffordshire is currently out to tender and there is every chance that it will soon be run by a private operator. Imagine that if you will; shareholders somewhere could be making a profit out of treating men like Geoff in the future.
As I said to the marchers as I spoke to send us off, if that isn’t a good enough reason to get behind this campaign to save the NHS then I don’t know what is.
Many hundreds of people will join the march on its way to London, some walking all the way, some walking a leg or even part of a leg. NHS campaigners who are ordinary citizens like the (extra)ordinary Darlo Mums who have so brilliantly organised it, Trade Unionists, and members of the Labour movement – including Fiona Labour’s Parliamentary candidate for Windsor who intends to walk the whole route following in the footsteps of the Jarrow marchers of 1936, health workers and patients and members of their families.
We took a big contingent of Stockton South members today and were proud to be able to play our small part in this historic undertaking. Let’s hope that our present – and future national leaders are listening.