Hands off our NHS

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Hundreds of placard-waving protesters marched through a Dales town to campaign against NHS reforms.

And following the grassroots protest in Wirksworth on Saturday, the Government announced it will “pause” and listen to the growing number critics of the health service overhaul.

Over 200 demonstrators marched through the streets from Hannage Brook Medical Centre to a rally in the Market Place.

Mayor Andy Pollock said: “It went brilliantly and a lot of people turned out. It is good if the Government is listening to what people are saying and it wouldn’t be the first time the Government has done a U-turn on things.

“If every little community like Wirksworth and Matlock stand up and say what they are thinking it shows there are real concerns.”

The revolt was sparked in the town by local GPs who fear the measures will encourage privatisation and lead to increased competition.

The reforms would see Primary Care Trusts and Strategic Health Authorities abolished by 2013 and 80 per cent of the NHS budget pass into the hands of doctors.

Matlock doctor Peter Holden, a GP at Imperial Road group surgery and a member of the British Medical Association’s GPs’ committee, said he also had major fears about the proposed shake-up.

He added: “It smacks of dumbing down the service.

“The main concern we all have is there is nothing to stop any other provider coming in.

“The Government has had criticism from all quarters. They are playing with a service that cannot afford to pause for one moment, it has to be got right.

“So many people from so many different walks of life with so many different interests have said this won’t do. I think the Government is beginning to realise it has to do something.

“There are so many problems with this bill. It needs a major rethink.”