Up to 250,000 people joined the huge and beautiful #ourNHS march on Saturday. This march came just weeks after an Ipsos MORI poll found that the state of the health-service is the biggest concern facing the country, ahead of Brexit and far ahead of immigration.
Trade union banners, placards, costumes, homemade banners, and sound-system beats filled the streets for what was the biggest protest about the NHS to date.
There was a huge diversity of messaging about a health-system loved by many for many different reasons: placards demanding no ‘closures or privatisation’, health professionals demanding an end to pay restraint, ‘check-ups not check points’ referring to migrants being charged for NHS care, and calls for funding for trans-gender health. Jubilee Debt Campaign was amongst the crowd with our message on PFI debts and the NHS.
As we explained in an earlier blog, this year we want to really raise the profile of the impact of PFI debts on our health service, and joining the #ourNHS march was just the first step.
The Private Finance Initiative is the name used in the UK for public-private partnerships, a form of financing of public infrastructure which has spread around the world over the last two decades.
In the NHS, a PFI hospital is built when a consortium of private sector banks and construction firms finance, build, own, operate and lease hospital buildings and services to the UK taxpayer, typically over a period of 30 or more years.
The National Audit Office has found that private finance costs at least twice as much as if the government had borrowed to build the hospitals itself. Spread that out over more than 100 PFI hospitals, and it’s easy to see why the NHS is paying out over £2 billion every year to private companies on PFI contracts which stretch out for many years into the future.
This ‘NHS debt’ was a major contributor to the record £2.45 billion deficit faced by NHS hospitals in England in 2015/16. Cash-strapped hospitals are even more hard up while profit-making companies benefit.
We think that it’s time that the public and decision-makers know just how bad PFI debts are for our NHS and for the hospitals we all rely on, which means that the work continues after the march.
If you’d like to get more involved in our NHS campaigning in 2017 get in touch with – [email protected] – to express interest.
We need to demand an end to crippling PFI debts so that crucial NHS funds go towards treatment and care rather than profits for corporations. That’s why we’re asking you – Jubilee supporters – to get active with us on the issue of NHS debt in 2017.