NHS campaigners to stage tug of war protest in Leamington against the Health and Care Bill

NHS campaigners have claimed that the forthcoming Health and Care Bill will increase the private sector’s involvement in the NHS and have called for the new Health Secretary Sajid Javid to withdraw the legislation.

Friday, 16th July 2021, 3:49 pm
Updated Friday, 16th July 2021, 3:50 pm

Campaigners are set to stage a mock tug of war outside the town hall in Leamington tomorrow (Saturday July 17) from noon in protest against the Health and Care Bill..

The campaigners are claiming that the forthcoming Health and Care Bill, which passed its second reading in the House of Commons this week (July 14), will increase the private sector’s involvement in the NHS and have called for the new Health Secretary Sajid Javid to withdraw the legislation.

As part of the tug of war protest, one team will be dressed as Virgin founder Richard Branson, Serco CEO Rupert Soames, Health Secretary Sajid Javid and Baroness Dido Harding.

Stop the NHS Corporate Takeover Bill graphic.
Stop the NHS Corporate Takeover Bill graphic.

The other will include patients, doctors and nurses.

Among concerns raised by campaigners are the proposed changes to the rules for contracting NHS services.

Presently, Section 75 of the 2012 Health and Social Care Act requires a process of compulsory competitive tendering for NHS services.

The government’s new legislation would end this requirement, which campaigners claim would make it much easier for services to be contracted to the private sector without checks and balances.

Further concerns have been raised about proposals for new Integrated Care Systems (ICS) boards - new bodies within the NHS designed to bring together all bodies working within the health service to work on public health strategy.

However, campaigners have warned that the forthcoming Bill would allow private companies to sit on such decision making boards, arguing that this creates potential for conflict of interest.

Campaigner Anna Pollert, the secretary of South Warwickshire Keep Our NHS Public who organised the protest in Leamington said:

“I was shocked when I heard about the details of the government’s plans for our NHS. With the year we’ve had, our precious health service should be being invested in and cared for.

“Instead, the government is planning to open the NHS up to further privatisation, with profit hungry companies being given a seat at the decision making table.

“We’re campaigning to stop this outrageous attack on our health service. We want our NHS to be run for all of us, not in the interests of private companies.”

When the Health and Care Bill was discussed in Parliament on Wednesday, Sajid Javid said: "Whenever the NHS is subject to change, it is tempting for some, who should actually know better, to claim that it is the beginning of the end of public provision.

"We know that that is complete nonsense, and they know it is nonsense, but they say it anyway.

"So let me very clear: our integrated care boards will be made up of public sector bodies and those with a social purpose.

"They will not be driven by any private interests, and will constantly make use of the most innovative potential of non-NHS bodies.

"The spirit of this Bill is about holding on to what is best about the NHS and removing what is holding it back."