About a hundred people held a protest outside Hove Conservative MP Mike Weatherley’s office this afternoon (Saturday 17 March).
They were demonstrating about the coalition government’s Health and Social Care Bill which is likely to be finally voted through in Parliament in the coming week.
They want Mr Weatherley and the Conservative MP for Brighton Kemptown, Simon Kirby, to “kill the bill” – to vote it down on Monday (19 March).
They fear that it will lead to more private companies running parts of the National Health Service.
And they are concerned that private companies would put profits before patient care.
Several prominent Greens attended the protest and the party’s Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas was one of the speakers outside Hove Town Hall.
Shortly afterwards the protesters made their way to Mr Weatherley’s nearby office in Church Road.
As they arrived, Mr Weatherley tweeted: “This weekend I’m relaxing at home. Might stick on a film. Any recommendations?”
One protester said that he would resist the temptation to suggest Carry On Doctor in case his political opponent mistook a Twitter message as a sign of approval for the health reforms.
Two Sussex Police minibuses turned up as the protesters set off for Churchill Square in Brighton where, after a last brief speech, they dispersed.
There were no arrests.
Caroline Lucas said: “Despite hollow government assurances and some cosmetic changes to the Health and Social Care Bill in recent weeks, the reality is that its main purpose – to vastly increase the commercialisation of the NHS – remains intact.
“The government has no mandate for any of this, from the voters or in the coalition agreement.
“We must now join together to force the Prime Minister to drop the bill.
Councillor Rob Jarrett, the cabinet member for adult social care and health on Brighton and Hove City Council, said: “This bill isn’t privatisation by stealth, it’s privatisation in broad daylight.
“Our concern isn’t for the politicians or business leaders who are pushing for a privatised NHS.
“Our concern is for the patients, carers and healthcare workers who daily make the NHS one of this country’s defining institutions, and who face immense upheaval and suffering as a result of the bill.
“We urge the city’s two Conservative MPs to join Caroline Lucas in opposing the bill for the good of the city.
“If they do, they will join eminent company including the British Medical Association, the Royal College of Nursing and the Royal College of General Practitioners – the latter the very professionals who the government says should be commissioning health services locally.
“We urge Mike Weatherley and Simon Kirby to think again before it is too late and put patients, carers and the country first.”
The Greens said that the bill proposed a much more complex NHS structure. And rather than give power to local GPs, it would create confusion about individual bodies’ roles and responsibilities – and a crisis of accountability.
The bill also makes provision for charging and removes the statutory duty to provide public health services for children, smoking cessation services, alcohol and drug services and a raft of other crucial services.
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