NHS hero says he is 'humbled' by Banbury campaigners' work

James Corbett (front left) and Horton supporters outside the Oxford Road hospital entrance
James Corbett (front left) and Horton supporters outside the Oxford Road hospital entrance

James Corbett, the NHS hero who is walking 450 miles from Glasgow to Parliament, said he is humbled by the longstanding Horton General Hospital campaign.

Mr Corbett met members of the campaign and local councillors outside the Banbury hospital today (Saturday) on a rest day from his marathon walk to protest against creeping privatisation of the NHS.

James Corbett, left, and Keith Strangwood, chairman of KTHG

James Corbett, left, and Keith Strangwood, chairman of KTHG

He returns to Milton Keynes this evening to continue his walk to Westminster via Leighton Buzzard, Luton and Wembley where campaigners from around the country will join him on the final leg to the Houses of Parliament.

Mr Corbett said: "What I am doing is putting one leg in front of the other; what the KTHG campaigners have been doing is working for years to maintain services for the people of Banbury and district. That is humbling."

Welcoming him to Banbury, KTHG chairman Keith Strangwood said: "KTHG applauds your tremendous effort and for drawing attention to the plight of the NHS.

"Here in Banbury we have fought for decades to retain services at our beloved Horton General Hospital. The current configuration of the campaign group has been in existence since 2006.

"Under the stewardship of the wonderful George Parish, a Labour councillor and Sir Tony Baldry, the local Tory MP, we fought tooth and nail to retain full services and succeeded. David overcame Goliath in 2008 when the Independent Reconfiguration Panel, appointed by the Secretary of State for Health Alan Johnson, ruled 100 per cent in our favour. Sadly since that fantastic victory our beloved old girl has been reeling from several knockout blows. The war continues to rage about returning a full obstetric service to the Horton.

"What we have in common with you James is that a handful of committed individuals will not give up. We will fight to the bitter end. You have shown terrific resilience in your epic journey. So have we. But whilst yours is drawing to an end ours is far from over," said Mr Strangwood.

The KTHG chairman reminded the crowd of NHS founder Aneurin Bevan's words 'The NHS will last as long as there’s folk with faith left to fight for it'.

Cllr Andrew McHugh, Cherwell District Council's lead member for health and wellbeing, said: "I think James' walk is inspiring. I think we all appreciate just what a gem we have in the NHS and we need to preserve it."

Mr McHugh thanked Mr Corbett for bringing the issue to people's attention.

Mr Corbett said: "I decided on this walk about two weeks before the walk. Unlike KTHG which has been campaigning for many years I wasn't aware of the Heath and Social Care Act 2012 but when I found out about that they were removing responsibility of Secretary of State for our care, I thought something must be done about it.

"I didn't think an online petition was enough. I wanted to show that someone cared enough to walk 450 miles to take the petition to Parliament and to ask them to reassure us that they're not going to privatise (NHS services) any further.

"I didn't realise how many campaigns there were around the country - it's massive. We need to join all the dots and show that there are so many people concerned and willing to fight for the cause and make people aware of what's happening to the NHS, stop the rot, ring-fence it and protect it.

"I'm hoping that the leader of each party will sign my petition and if I can't take it to Downing Street, I'm hoping some of my local MPs in Chester will hand it in for me."

Mr Corbett has spend most nights during his walk bearing an 18kg backpack and sleeping in a tent in fields but as support has grown along the way, NHS campaigners have given him accommodation and fed him. He began the walk in Scotland and included Wales in his route to demonstrate the unity of Great Britain.

"It's been great - attention is building and I realise how many people are concerned about the NHS," he said.

You can sign James Corbett's petition here and his website is here.