Campaigners to hold protest over government’s Health and Care Bill

Sonik campaigners at a previous health protest

Members of Save Our NHS In Kent (SONIK) will gather outside the office of South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay tomorrow (November 22) and are asking all opposed to privatisation of the health service to join them.

The protest has been called to coincide with a major event being held outside Parliament in which celebrities and health workers will band together to demand that MPs oppose the Health and Care Bill, which campaigners fear will be disastrous for the NHS and social care services.

A spokesperson for SONIK said:  “There is widespread agreement among health campaigners that if this bill is passed it will result in more privatisation and more cuts in the NHS. It will be a disaster for our health service. Everyone who is concerned about the future of our NHS should join our protest.”

Celebrities including Stephen Fry, Jo Brand, and Michael Rosen are supporting the event in London.

The national campaign against the bill has already seen protests outside parliament and celebrity social media video messages have reached millions of people.

In support of the national campaign, Stephen Fry said: “I’ve seen what a nightmare healthcare is – if you can call it that – in America. A real nightmare! And the idea of that infecting our NHS is like the idea of a new pandemic, frankly.

“That kind of infection would destroy and compromise the health service we’ve grown to depend on and love, and to be incredibly proud of. Research shows that American corporations are already embedding themselves in our NHS. And this is a really dangerous, and a very, very worrying turn of events.”

What the Bill includes

Government says the purpose of the Bill is to establish a legislative framework that supports collaboration between the NHS, local authorities and care providers rather than competition. Many of its proposals have been informed by the NHS’s recommendations. The Bill also contains new powers for the Secretary of State over the health and care system, and targeted changes to public health, social care, and quality and safety matters.

The Bill will mean each part of England has an Integrated Care Board and an Integrated Care Partnership responsible for bringing together local NHS and local government, such as social care, mental health services and public health advice.

Sir Simon Stevens, NHS chief executive, said:“This Bill contains widely supported proposals for integrated care, which have been developed and consulted on over recent years by the NHS itself.

“They go with the grain of what our staff and patients can see is needed, by removing outdated and bureaucratic legal barriers to joined-up working between GPs, hospitals, and community services. In doing so, these pragmatic reforms build on the sensible and practical changes already well underway right across the NHS. And by enabling mutual support between different parts of the local health and care services they will undoubtedly both help tackle health inequalities and speed the recovery of care disrupted by the covid pandemic.”

Key measures include:

The NHS and local government planning health and care services, including moving services out of hospitals and into the community.

The development of a new procurement regime for the NHS and public health procurement, reducing competitive tendering – this is the area which has raised concerns about an increase in the number of contracts awarded to private providers, with campaigners saying it will lead to a gradual privatisation of the NHS.

A package of measures to deliver on specific needs in the social care sector including the introduction of powers for the Secretary of State to directly make payments to adult social care providers where required.

Supporting the introduction of new requirements about calorie labelling on food and drink packaging and the advertising of junk food before the 9pm watershed

The Bill will be debated in parliament throughout the winter and is expected to be passed in time for changes to come into effect in April 2022.

Thanet protest

The SONIK protest will take place outside MP Craig Mackinlay’s office, 4 The Broadway, Broadstairs, at 3pm.