Celebrities back #OnlytheNHS campaign

3 July 2023

Dame Emma Thompson, Stephen Fry, comedian Joe Lycett and Derry Girls star Siobhán McSweeney are among the names that have signed We Own It’s open letter calling on the health spokespeople of all major parties to commit to “funding our NHS properly and making it work for patients, not profit.”

The letter marks the launch of our Only the NHS campaign, and brings together more than a dozen public figures, including Big Boys star Jon Pointing, celebrity photographer Rankin, children’s author Michael Rosen and comedian Rosie Holt, among others.

Our open letter points out the billions squandered on the private sector during the pandemic, and the unremitting pressure on the health service - from ambulance response times and GP appointment waiting lists, to delays for surgery or clinical care. It highlights the unique nature of the NHS. 

Only the NHS:

  • Takes care of patients at A&E — the private sector doesn’t have A&E.
  • Trains our doctors and nurses — the private sector relies on NHS-trained staff.
  • Looks after all patients — the private sector cherry-picks.



It calls on all political parties to commit to three key policy decisions that will avert the crisis and prevent a move to a costly US-style model of healthcare: invest in NHS capacity; stop outsourcing contracts to private companies; and restore the NHS in line with its founding principles by reinstating the government’s duty to provide care for everyone in the UK.

To mark the launch of their campaign, We Own It has released new polling by Survation showing that 65% of people believe the NHS should be reinstated as a fully public service. The campaign will also include a range of actions in towns and cities across Britain to mark the 75th birthday of the NHS on the 5th of July.

Comedian Jess Fostekew said “I don't want to live in yet another country where you have to be minted in order to get help when you are ill.

“If we don’t act fast, the NHS is going to be history. I believe it's time for a national effort to reinstate the NHS as the health service it was created to be.”

Lead Campaigner Johnbosco Nwogbo said “When you call 999 with a medical emergency, who responds? It’s the NHS. Only the NHS provides A&E. Only the NHS trains up our doctors and nurses — the private sector will nab them once they're trained. Only the NHS deals with complex cases and takes care of you whatever is wrong — private companies cherry-pick the simplest cases to make money.

“Every penny that gets wasted on private sector disasters like Test and Trace is a penny not invested in our NHS. Privatisation has failed — outsourcing leads to more deaths, and mortality is higher with the US model. So our message for the minister Steve Barclay, the shadow minister Wes Streeting and all the health spokespeople is that Only the NHS can solve this crisis. Please fund it properly and make it work for patients not profit."

Read the full letter below.


Dear parliamentary health spokespeople,

12 years ago, our NHS was the best healthcare system in the world. But now, our NHS is in crisis, after many years of government cuts.

Last year, ambulance waiting times for heart attack patients went up by 38 minutes. Millions are waiting over two weeks to see a GP. People are being forced to pay out of their own pocket for operations or suffer while they wait.

The private sector is no solution. Billions have been wasted on failed private Test and Trace. Outsourcing has led to 557 excess deaths. Private hospitals have failed to dent the 7.4 million waiting list. And we know that moving towards a US, two-tier style healthcare system would be even more wasteful, expensive and deadly.

You have a choice to make — invest in our NHS for the long term OR divert that money to the private sector.

On the NHS’s 75th birthday, we are writing to say — ONLY the NHS can get us out of this mess.

Only the NHS

  • Takes care of patients at A&E — the private sector doesn’t have A&E.
  • Trains our doctors and nurses — the private sector relies on NHS-trained staff.
  • Looks after all patients — the private sector cherry-picks.

We know that political parties are writing their policies now, ahead of the next general election. We ask you to commit to funding our NHS properly and making it work for patients, not profit. Will your party commit to:

  1. Invest in NHS capacity (not private profits) to deal with the crisis?
  2. Insource contracts, bringing them back into the NHS?
  3. Restore the NHS to what was intended by reinstating the government’s duty to provide care to everyone in the UK?

Please make the right choice - Only the NHS.


Dame Emma Thompson - Actor, screenwriter

Stephen Fry - Actor, Comedian

Siobhán McSweeney - Actor

Joe Lycett - Comedian, TV presenter

Jon Pointing - Actor

Billy Bragg - Musician

Rankin - Celebrity photographer

Michael Rosen - Author

Ken Loach - Film-maker

Marina Purkiss - Broadcaster

Rosie Holt - Comedian

Jessica Fostekew - Actor, stand-up comedian

Lee Ridley (Lost Voice Guy) - Stand-up comedian

Lemn Sissay OBE - Official poet of the 2012 London Olympics, TV presenter

Aneira Thomas (the first person born in the NHS)

And 13,751 members of the public

* This letter was amended on 13th July 2023 to reflect the uncertainty around the statistic of 120 patients dying before an ambulance could reach them. That sentence was replaced with 'Last year, the ambulance waiting time for heart attack patients went up by 38 minutes. '


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Jane La Touche replied on Permalink

Please give more funding for the NHS

Paul Dyer replied on Permalink

The NHS has taken good care of me through many illnesses

Jackie Jordan replied on Permalink

Save the NHS

PETER DAVID DAY replied on Permalink

In 1952 my sister contracted POLIO and our GP got here into PARK ROYAL HOSPITAL instantly in time for her to be cured. I was 14 at the time and my father said to me that before the Labour party and the trade unions created ''OUR N H S'' he would never been able to have taken my sister to a private hospital or doctor.He was by then a express steam driver and did not have enough money . He went on to say if it had not been for OUR N HS my sister would have probably spent the rest of her life in a wheelchair .She is still around now and has had a happy healthy life THANK YOU N H S

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