Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn celebrated the NHS’ 70th anniversary with tens of thousands of people in London on Saturday pledging his determination to defend its founding principle of free health care for all.

Jeremy Corbyn at rally

“I want to live in a society where we have a health service worthy of the name ‘paid for by all of us, for all of us’,” he told cheering crowds at a rally in Whitehall.

Corbyn also appealed to the government, saying: “In the name of equality, in the name of justice, pay the social care needs that are necessary so people can live with dignity.”

People from all over the country gathered outside the BBC headquarters in Portland Place before marching to 10 Downing Street with all manner of placards demanding an end to the government’s backdoor privatisation of the NHS amid swingeing cutbacks.

Richard Burgon

Earlier Richard Burgon, shadow minister for justice, deplored the situation whereby doctors “feel for your passport before feeling for your pulse”, a reference to the government rules obliging medical staff to check whether patients are eligible for free care.

The NHS was launched on July 5, 1948 by a post-war labour government as a key plank of the new welfare state bringing an end to the days when people had to pay to see their doctor or receive hospital treatment.