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MORE than two-thirds of people in England are concerned that the Conservative’s shake-up of the NHS risks extending privatisation in the health service, a new poll suggests.
The survey, carried out by Survation for the anti-privatisation campaign group We Own It, suggests a lack of public support for the government’s Health and Care Bill, including among Tory voters.
Of the 1,008 people polled, 72 per cent said they were worried that the proposals would open the health service to contracts being given out to private companies without scrutiny.
Seventy per cent of Tory voters polled raised these concerns, while 83 per cent of Labour supporters did.
The poll, seen exclusively by the Morning Star, was published ahead of the third reading of the Bill on November 9.
Campaigners, Labour and healthcare unions have opposed the plans, claiming the Bill would allow the NHS to award contracts to private firms without considering other bids.
This has also sparked fears of a repeat of the “Tory crony contracts” scandal.
We Own It director Cat Hobbs said the group’s survey shows that the public, including a majority of Tory voters “are rightly very concerned about the likes of Richard Branson getting contracts in our NHS by the back door.”
“We’re calling on all MPs to take a stand now for our NHS and stop this Bill from damaging our health service,” she added.
The survey also found that only two in 10 respondents thought reorganising the NHS should be a top priority for the government.
In contrast, eight in 10 said they wanted the government to prioritise tackling record-high NHS waiting lists and ensuring people can see their GPs face to face.
At the weekend, members of the public in more than 20 constituencies held small actions to urge their MPs to vote against the Bill.
Responding to the poll, Labour MP Zarah Sultana said: “NHS staff and people across the country need the government focused on properly funding the NHS and rolling back privatisation, not carving it up and letting in more private healthcare companies.
“This poll shows how widespread this opinion is, with even the majority of Conservative voters worried about a corporate takeover of our NHS.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson insisted that the NHS is not for sale.
However Keep Our NHS Public co-chair Dr John Puntis said: “This poll shows that there is ... considerable concern that [the Bill] will facilitate ever greater contracting-out of services to profit-hungry private companies.
Fixing waiting lists and support for general practice are clearly top priorities. This requires substantial funding and a coherent policy for recruiting and retaining staff.
“Both are absent from the Bill, which should be rejected as a distraction from the real problem of how to prevent the NHS from total collapse.”
An online rally organised by the campaign, against the Health and Care Bill and in support of health care workers, is due to be held at 7pm this evening: mstar.link/3o0hFbJ
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