Norfolk’s Drop the Bill rallies against NHS reforms
Worried health staff in Norfolk have come together to organise 'Drop the Bill' rallies opposing controversial changes to the NHS.
Opposition to the unpopular Health and Social Care Bill is at an all-time high, with more and more health professionals, unions and organisations voicing their concerns over the plans.
King's Lynn and District Trades' Council is arranging a public meeting to oppose the Bill on Friday, March 2, at 7pm in King's Lynn Town Hall on the Saturday Market Place.
The Norfolk and Waveney mental health branch of Unison has also organised a rally, to be held in Hay Hill in Norwich on Saturday from 11am to midday.
Emma Corlett, a mental health nurse and union member, said: 'We need to stand up and make as much noise as we can.
'It's such a complex, huge piece of legislation, it's hard for most members of the public to get their heads round what the implications are for the NHS.
'Part of the reason to hold a rally is raising awareness of what the Bill actually means.'
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Critics say the Bill is intended to bring more competition into the NHS, and is essentially privatisation. However, there are many other concerns, which include worries about the watering down of local indpendent health watchdogs, transparency within the NHS and the Government's refusal to publish a risk register which details an internal assessment of the risks posed by the reforms.
Ms Corlett said: 'These reforms seem to be so far away from what the founding principles of the NHS were.'
Both rallies will feature various speakers, including Richard Murphy, founder of The National Tax Justice Network.
Norfolk MPs Henry Bellingham, Elizabeth Truss and Simon Wright have declined an invitation to the events, but Norwich North MP Chloe Smith has indicated she intends to attend.
Ms Corlett said: 'We need our elected representatives to account for why they are supporting this.'
Kathy Saunders, chairman of Norfolk Coalition for Disabled People, said: 'We are seeing disabled people and their families forced into poverty, losing their homes through limits on housing benefits.
'We see people with severe mental health illness turned away from health services and left to struggle in misery.
'The Bill will not promote the life chances of disabled people and it should be thrown out.'
The rallies will also be raising awareness of a national TUC rally taking place in London on Wednesday, March 7.