South Shields and Sunderland campaign group protests against 'backdoor privatisation' of the NHS

A campaign group have been out on the streets of South Shields and Sunderland urging the public to take action to reduce the growing influence of private companies on the NHS.

The Keep Our NHS Public (KONP) campaign group were on King Street, in South Shields, as well as on the seafront at Seaburn where they were speaking to the public and handing out leaflets highlighting their concerns about the restructuring of governance of South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust.

The Health and Care Act, which comes into effect on July 1, will see the Trust become one of 42 NHS bodies called Integrated Care Systems (ICS) with North East and Cumbria ICS overseeing healthcare in Sunderland and South Tyneside.

Under the new framework, private companies will be able to take up positions on ICS boards and take an active role in decision making – something which campaigner Roger Nettleship, who also chairs the Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign, is against.

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He said: “We were also surveying how people feel about privatisation of the NHS. We found people felt privatisation would lead to a decline in the quality and quantity of services.

"There are concerns that NHS services are going to the same way as dentists, many of which are now privatised and people are having to pay for their treatment.”

Also campaigning was former GP, Dr Pam Wortley, who’s concerned private companies taking up positions on boards will give them further undue influence and worries decisions may become financially motivated.

The Keep Our NHS Public campaign group have been protesting against the increasing involvement of private companies in the South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust.

Dr Wortley said: “There are already a large number of companies providing NHS services such as Vocare, who run out-of-hours GP services at walk-in centres, and Operone who oversee GP practices.

"You then have Serco, who the Government commissioned to run Test and Trace as part of its £37bn investment, and £4bn paid to private companies for PPE, a large amount of which went unused as it was sub-standard.

"At the end of the day, private companies are there to make profit and this restructuring is part of a backdoor method to privatise the NHS.”

Part of the national We Own It campaign, campaigners asked the public to write to North East and North Cumbria ICS board chair, Professor Sir Liam Donaldson, urging him to ban private companies from the board.