Unions representing hundreds of thousands of NHS workers will step up their opposition to the Government's controversial health reforms this week by holding a protest outside Parliament. Nurses, midwives, doctors, physiotherapists, cleaners, porters and other employees will join the demonstration in Westminster on Wednesday as the Health and Social Care Bill enters its final parliamentary stages.
Campaigners said that while the Bill was still in the House of Lords, it was the best chance they have of changing the proposals before it returned to the Commons. Unions and other campaign groups involved in the protest said the Bill was "hugely unpopular" with workers and patients alike, warning of increased involvement of private firms in the health service. The All Together for the NHS campaign is organising the protest, including a rally at Westminster Central Hall, close to the Houses of Parliament.
TUC deputy general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "Some changes have been made to the Bill, but not nearly enough. Peers must listen to the concerns of the people that know the NHS best - the staff who work in it. Health workers fear the increased competition and the extension of markets will have a devastating impact on patient care, especially poorer people who will find themselves pushed to the back of ever-growing waiting lists."
Several thousand are expected to attend the rally and will listen to speeches from speakers including comedian Jo Brand - who once worked as a psychiatric nurse - as well as politicians, fellow health workers, union leaders and health service users. Dr Clive Peedell, an oncologist from Middlesbrough who ran 160 miles in six days from Aneurin Bevan's Statue in Cardiff to the Department of Health in Whitehall in January to protest against the Bill, will also be speaking and Artists for the NHS will be displaying some of their work in the hall.
Twenty-thousand members of 38 Degrees, the online campaigning community, have donated £280,000 in three days to pay for more than 180 billboards across London calling on the Prime Minister to reconsider the reforms, the group said.
David Babbs, 38 Degrees' executive director, said: "It's not too late for David Cameron to change his mind on the NHS. But worryingly at the moment he seems more concerned about the political consequences than admitting he's made a mistake. 38 Degrees members believe the NHS is too important to be risked for the sake of party political calculations. So we're trying to remind David Cameron that most voters and health experts want him to change course."
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