Campaigners demand Keir Starmer commits to ending NHS privatisation

"The call from the public is too clear for Keir Starmer to ignore - we want an NHS we can be proud of again."

Labour Party leader Keir Starmer speaking at the dispatch box in the House of Commons

Anti-privatisation campaigners today launched a petition calling for Keir Starmer to commit to reinstating the NHS as a fully public service. The petition, coordinated by We Own It, calls on the Labour leader to pledge to end NHS privatisation in advance of the next general election.

Opinion polls have consistently shown that the public support the NHS being in public ownership. Figures from Survation suggest as much as 78% of the public support a publicly owned health service.

Despite this, research indicates that decades of private sector involvement in the health service has eroded the core principles of the NHS, with a marketised, two-tier system emerging.

Campaigners also highlight research which indicates that outsourcing and privatisation leads to worse patient outcomes and can contribute to deaths in the health service. Last year, a study found that over 500 deaths from ‘treatable’ illnesses in the NHS were linked to outsourcing in a five year period.

Cat Hobbs, director of We Own It, said “In 2010 the NHS was rated the most efficient and best performing health service in the world. But creeping privatisation, cuts, and sustained underfunding have brought it to its knees.

“The call from the public is too clear for Keir Starmer to ignore – we want an NHS we can be proud of again. That means reinstating it as a fully public service.”

Keir Starmer has so far refused to commit to ending NHS privatisation if he enters Downing Street after the next election. That’s despite a pledge he made in the 2020 Labour leadership election to “end NHS privatisation and reinstate the NHS on the basis of its founding principles.”

The shadow health secretary, Wes Streeting, has said Labour would increase the use of private healthcare providers to tackle the NHS backlog. However, he has also described outsourcing in the health service as “basically cutting corners, cutting costs, and then at the end of it people are paid less for doing the same job.”

Dr Tony Sullivan, co-chair of Keep Our NHS Public said, “The NHS is in mortal danger from deliberate underfunding, the growing tentacles of privatisation and successive legislation. Together these policies have weakened the NHS’s ability to fully meet the population’s needs, fragmented national coherence and created a demoralised NHS and care workforce. Public opinion remains strongly behind the NHS and its staff.

“Keir Starmer and Labour must commit to a restoration of our NHS and its public sector ethos, an end to outsourcing to private sector companies, and to reinstating the NHS as a wholly publicly funded, provided and managed service. If they do not, they will be contributing to its demise.”

We Own It’s petition has received over 2,500 signatures just hours after its launch.

Chris Jarvis is head of strategy and development at Left Foot Forward

Image credit: Jessica Taylor / UK Parliament – Creative Commons

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