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Firms suing NHS is ‘height of absurdity’, says Corbyn at rally

Labour Party leader heads into election with health service investment pledges

06 December, 2019 — By Calum Fraser

Jeremy Corbyn with NHS activists on Friday

LABOUR Party leader Jeremy Corbyn appeared at a rally outside the Whittington Hospital and claimed it is the “height of absurdity” for private companies to try and sue the NHS.

The Islington North MP’s intervention came days before the hospital in Archway must defend itself at the Royal Courts of Justice over a cancelled property deal.

Construction firm Ryhurst’s case, expected to be heard over five days, begins on Monday.

It had been chosen as the preferred bidder for a major reconstruction of a large part of the hospital’s estate.

But the board decided to drop Ryhurst, a subsidiary of Rydon, amid a backdrop of protests against the company.

Rydon had worked on the cladding of Grenfell Tower in west London before the devastating fire there in 2017.

Rydon has not been found responsible for any wrongdoing over the fire which killed 72 people in 2017.

Speaking to a crowd outside of the hospital, Mr Corbyn said the Labour Party would “end this nonsense of private companies suing” the NHS if it is not given a contract.

And he pledged that a Labour government would inject £26billion into the NHS so that Trusts would have the money to fund “much needed” capital projects and not have to bring in private contractors at all.

“I am opposed to Rydon coming in at all and I thought it was a huge mistake to even consider,” he told the Tribune.

“There is now apparently a legal case going on which I think is shocking. If our hospital doesn’t want to have a contractor it shouldn’t be sued for that.”

He added: “The problem this hospital has is underfunding. It needs capital investment for a new maternity unit and at the moment the only option they have to develop is to sell property and land. This is a product of the Health and Social Care Act that the coalition government brought in.”

Speaking in front of the hospital’s main entrance on Friday, the Labour leader warned about the dangers of the NHS being opened up to US pharmaceutical companies if the Tories win a majority at next Thursday’s general election.

Unredacted papers from several meetings between British and American trade officials over the past three years were revealed by Mr Corbyn last week.

US officials said that they want “full market access” if a post-Brexit trade deal is to be considered, according to the documents.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has repeatedly denied that the NHS would be “on the table” in trade talks.

Mr Corbyn was joined at the rally by Shirley Franklin, chairwoman of Defend the Whittington Hospital Coa­lition campaign group.

“Rydon is suing the NHS and it is highly political. What we all say about the NHS and privatisation is embedded in this issue,” she said.

“We are protesting outside the Royal Courts on Monday and please do come along.”

The courtrooms have been booked from December 9 to 13.

A spokesman for Ryhurst said: “We are disappointed there has not been a resolution before this stage as we have always remained open to discussion with the Trust.”

• A list of all the ­election candidates ­standing in Islington North can be found on the Tribune’s website.
Follow our online pages and Twitter feed for more election news next week.

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