Thousands of NHS jobs could go, rally against health reforms in King’s Lynn told

Nine thousand NHS jobs could go in the East of England if the service is restructured along the lines proposed in the government's Health and Social Care Bill, a public meeting heard tonight.

Speakers set out the impact unions and health professionals fear that the reorganisation - described as the biggest since the NHS was formed in 1948 - will have on the service.

Fifty people attended the Drop the Bill Rally at King's Lynn Town Hall, organised by Lynn and District Trades Council. Organiser Jo Rust said she was pleased with the turn-out.

Tracey Lambert, eastern region health manager for the trade union Unison, said: 'In the words of the old proverb, if it isn't broke don't fix it. That would have been good advice for Andrew Lansley when he took over as Health Secretary in 2010.

'We have had nine years of increased funding under Labour. Waiting lists had been reduced and waiting times had been brought down to 18 weeks.

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'Eighteen months into a Tory government, waiting lists have already started going up. In the east of England, we're being told 9,000 full-time posts will go - that includes doctors and nurses.'

Gavin Shuker, Labour MP for Luton, said: 'Why is it that a member of Parliament has had to drive two hours to come to King's Lynn tonight.

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'Where is Henry Bellingham, where is Elizabeth Truss and most important where is Norman Lamb. This might be a Tory bill, but it's going through because the Lib Dems are propping them up.'

Organisers had invited local MPs to attend the meeting, but they had declined.

Mr Shuker said if it went through, the bill would introduce competition into the NHS and break the bond of trust between doctor and patient.

He said claims by Prime Minister David Cameron that more doctors were now working in hospitals reflected Labour's investment in the health service, bearing in mind doctors take seven years to train.

'The NHS is the pinnacle of what we can achieve when we come together,' he added.

Daniel Zeichner, a member of Labour's national policy forum, said: 'In Cambridgeshire, Addenbrooke's Hospital has just announced �43m of cuts it's got to make. Alongside that, we've got tens of millions of pounds being set aside for the re-organisation. Why on earth is that money not being used for front line care.'

Peter Smith, chair of South West Norfolk Labour Party, said NHS architect Nye Bevan had warned any government which tried to privatise the NHS would find itself totally opposed.

Ministers claim the bill will streamline the service and devolve more power to clinicians. But opponents claim private care providers will undercut each other to provide the cheapest care, while private patients jump the queue and tens of thousands of jobs are placed at risk.

A rally is being held in Hay Hill, Norwich, on Saturday (11am). A national rally takes place on Wednesday.

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