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GPs join march on the Department of Health

By Edward Davie

GPs were at the forefront of a demonstration in central London last night protesting against the NHS reforms and cuts to frontline health services.

London Keep Our NHS Public and the Health Worker Network organised a mass protest, assembling at University College Hospital and marching on the Department of Health in Whitehall.

The campaign called for the health bill to be scrapped, a Government commitment to sustainable investment in the NHS, a halt to all cuts in jobs and services and an 'end to the public sell-off of the NHS'.

A number of senior GPs including BMA Council members Dr Helena McKeown and Dr David Wrigley took part in the event, which is expected to bring parts of central London to a standstill.

GPC member Dr Helena McKeown spoke to Pulse as she and fellow GPs gathered at BMA House to collect their placards and join the march.

'We're marching to try and get this bill scrapped. The listening exercise is a sham and there will be no meaningful changes to what Andrew Lansley dreamt up in opposition for and for which there is no mandate. There is no need for this bill which will simply hand power to private companies.'

BMA council member and GP Dr David Wrigley told Pulse: 'There were thousands of us all demanding that this bill is withdrawn. From a GPs perspective, any doctor's perspective, this bill effectively privatises the NHS and nothing good can come from tinkering with legislation with such a flawed ethos.'

GPC negotiator Dr Chaand Nagpaul also backed the aims of the march: 'The Government needs to open its eyes and ears and recognise the overwhelming concern not just of the profession but of other health professionals and the public about the direction of these reforms,' he said.

'We hope that this pause delivers the substantive changes to the fabric of the health bill and this march is just another expression of the huge concern of doctors, nurses and the public.'

Professor Wendy Savage, co-chair of Keep Our NHS Public, said: 'The Health and Social Care Bill will turn the NHS into a commercial market. This unprecedented parliamentary pause is only a PR exercise. Health workers and the public know what the bill really means and resistance is growing. Does David Cameron really want this bill to be his "poll tax"? He needs to listen to the people and withdraw this bill.'

A Department of Health spokesperson said: 'Our plans to modernise the NHS will help put the professionals in the driving seat, cut out tiers of bureaucracy and reinvest resources into improving the quality of care for patients.'

'We recognise that there are some big questions about what we're doing. We're taking this time to pause, listen, reflect on and improve our NHS modernisation plans. We will listen and make any necessary changes.'

Story updated at 10:06

Protestors gathered outside the Department of Health