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Rio Ferdinand backs ‘Drop the Bill’ campaign

Manchester United and England footballer Rio Ferdinand has lent his backing to a prominent GP's petition to get the health bill scrapped.

Mr Ferdinand, vice-captain of the England national football team, has urged his 1.8 million followers on social networking site Twitter to sign an e-petition to get the health bill withdrawn, launched by Dr Kailash Chand, chair of NHS Tameside and Glossop, in November.

Writing on Twitter yesterday, Mr Ferdinand said: ‘Please RT [retweet] and sign up to this petition to help against the NHS being privatised: come on guys!'

Dr Chand is appealing for 100,000 signatures to force a ‘Drop the Bill' debate in parliament. At time of writing 23,220 people had signed the petition, which closes in May 2012.

Other recent e-petitions against the health bill have had less success. Last week a Liberal Democrat councillor's e-petition against Government plans to allow NHS hospitals to use almost half their hospital beds and theatre time for private patients was pulled within a few hours of going online after party officials intervened.

Speaking to the Leicester Mercury, Councillor Matthew Hubert, who launched the petition, said: ‘I tried to raise a serious political issue on a cross-party basis, but it became clear quite quickly that Labour councillors were just using it to bash the coalition.'

‘Some people from the local party got in touch and I was told I might want to take it down,'he added.