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'Only one in four' backs GP reforms

Only one in four people support GPs using private companies to provide NHS services, one of the key planks of the Government's health reforms, according to a new poll.

A survey of almost 2,000 adults for public sector union Unison showed that half were opposed to the move, including 56% of Liberal Democrat voters.

The results have been published on the eve of the second reading of the Health and Social Care Bill, which will attract fresh criticism from unions.

Unison said the YouGov poll showed that only 46% of Conservative voters supported private firms providing NHS services, with 22% registering a "don't know" response, and half of those surveyed were against GPs employing private management groups as part of the move to hand over £80 billion of the NHS budget to GPs.

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: "This Bill is heading for trouble. The YouGov poll shows a clear split between Lib Dem and Tory supporters. There is very weak support from Tory voters and clear opposition from Lib Dems.

"The fact is there is very little support for this Bill from anywhere. Many GPs are opposed to it, as are patients, NHS staff, clinicians, charities, think tanks, MPs and unions. The Government's vanity project is undemocratic, unaffordable and unnecessary.

"The NHS is already under severe financial pressure because of Government demands to make £20 billion in so-called efficiency savings. This titanic reorganisation threatens to sink the NHS. The Government should step back from the brink and pronounce this Bill DOA - dead on arrival."

Health workers are to stage a demonstration outside Parliament, carrying estate agent signs bearing the message 'NHS, Not for Sale'.

Meanwhile, Unite, the country's biggest union, said it will provide "new and forensic analysis" of the legislation for MPs, amid claims that the Government is "rushing through" the 280-clause Bill.

The union said it understood that the Bill could begin its Standing Committee stages as early as Thursday, leaving little time for MPs to get to grips with the "enormity" of the proposals.

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