A symbolic vigil to highlight the plight of the NHS will be held on Thursday (20 November) on the eve of the second reading of a private member’s bill that would roll-back the privatisation of the NHS.
Activists from the health unions, Unite, Unison and the GMB will be staging the candle-lit vigil at Old Palace Yard SWIP 3JY, opposite the House of Commons, from 19.00 on Thursday until the vote by MPs on the National Health Services (Amended Duties and Powers) bill due at lunchtime on Friday (21 November).
The bill is being promoted by Labour MP for Eltham, Clive Efford and is aimed at ridding the NHS of the worst parts of the government’s pro-privatisation Health and Social Care Act 2012, by rewriting the rules that force competitive tendering of NHS services.
The bill will also restore the responsibility to the secretary of state for health to provide a comprehensive health service, free at the point of delivery and prevents foundation trusts from prioritising private income at the expense of NHS patients.
Unite head of health Rachael Maskell said: “This is a symbolic vigil to drive home to MPs the importance of voting for Clive Efford’s bill as the first step on the journey to next May’s ballot box to restore the NHS to a service free at the point of delivery for all those in need.
“It will also have the effect of banishing the privatisation tentacles that are currently enveloping the NHS for the benefit of shareholder profits of the private healthcare companies.”
GMB national officer for the NHS Rehana Azam said: “Clive Efford’s draft bill is an important moment in the growing campaign to restore a publicly-run NHS. Backbench Tory and Lib Dem MPs will have to answer to their constituents if they don’t take this chance to undo the damage done by the coalition’s hugely controversial changes.
“We are moving into a government-induced NHS crisis this winter. Health workers are taking a second wave of industrial action in the week commencing 24 November in a dispute over pay.
“Since the coalition pushed through the Health and Social Care Act in 2012, NHS services have been sold off at an alarming rate. We have seen almost £12.5 billion worth of NHS services put out to market and some 70 per cent of contracts handed to the private sector. GMB campaigned against the Tory-Lib Dem reforms from the beginning.
“The NHS should be the provider of health services and alternatives desperately need to be found to the toxic PFI contracts that NHS trusts simply can't manage.”
Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham is expected to join the vigil at some stage.
For further information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 07768 693940 and/or the Unite press office on 020 3371 2065.
Notes to editors:
- Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.