Campaigners to stage protest over fears private companies will have a say in running health services in Sunderland and South Tyneside

Healthcare campaigners are to stage a protest over fears private companies will have a say in the running of NHS services in Sunderland and South Tyneside.

Friday, 10th June 2022, 1:50 pm

Members of campaign group Sunderland and District Keep Our NHS Public plan to hold a protest at Seaburn sea front at 12noon on Saturday, June 11, setting out concerns for services in both Wearside and South Tyneside, with the aim of putting pressure on North East NHS leaders to keep private companies out.

The campaigners claim private companies may have a role on the new board overseeing healthcare in Sunderland and South Tyneside.

The Health and Care Act, which was passed by parliament in April and will come into effect on July 1, organises the NHS across England into 42 new NHS bodies called Integrated Care Systems (ICS).

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Members of Keep Our NHS Public (KONP) at a previous demo.

Each ICS will be overseen by an Integrated Care Board (ICB).

Campaigners are calling on Professor Sir Liam Donaldson, the new chair of the North East and North Cumbria ICS board, to commit to banning private companies or people who work for them from making decisions in the local NHS.

Laura Murrell, secretary of Sunderland and District KONP, said: “The pandemic has shown us just how much we need our NHS. It has also shown us that all that private companies care about is extracting as much profits from it as possible without adding value.

“We saw how triumphantly the vaccination drive that the NHS ran went, whereas the Test and Trace programme run privately by Serco and Sitel was feckless and ineffectual.

Campaigners at a previous day of action in February 2022.

“This shows that the changes that are coming into our NHS from the 1st of July should be used as an opportunity to rebuild capacity within our local NHS, so that we don’t ever have to go to private companies.”

We approached the North East and North Cumbria ICS for comment. The body suggested we contact the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) press office for a response.

The DHSC has been contacted for comment.

The protest in Sunderland is part of a national day of action organised by We Own It and supported by Keep Our NHS Public and Unite Community.

Actions of all sizes are expected to take place in at least 40 towns across England, including in Whitley Bay, North Shields and Newcastle, on Saturday, June 11.

We Own It says over 20,000 people have emailed the 42 new local NHS chairs as part of their campaign in the last few weeks, claiming chairs of eight ICSs already pledging to ban private companies from having a role on their boards.

Johnbosco Nwogbo, Lead Campaigner at public ownership campaign group We Own It, said: “Opening the boardroom doors to private companies who could stand to benefit financially from decisions made by the board about the healthcare available to people in South Shields and Sunderland looks bad and smells bad.

“These changes to the NHS will not be to the benefit of ordinary users, many of whom can hardly get appointments with their doctor as it is.

“There is no doubt that they will benefit private companies whose primary goal is to extract profit from already skint NHS budgets. NHS leaders must commit not to allow private companies to continue to have a role in our local NHS bodies."