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'Battle' planned over NHS reforms

Protests against the Government's controversial health reforms will be held across the country this weekend, with union leaders warning of a "battle" over the future of the NHS.

Candlelit vigils and demonstrations will be held, petitions organised and street stalls mounted in towns and cities across England on Saturday and Sunday.

Unison said they will be held in areas including Reading, London, Cambridge, Norwich, Sunderland, Jarrow, Manchester, Burnley, Brighton, Leeds and Portsmouth.

Shadow health secretary John Healey is due to attend some of the events on Saturday.

Unison said the so-called NHS Big Weekend will show opposition to the reforms from health workers and members of the public.

The union claimed the Government's recent "listening exercise" over its Health and Social Care Bill had not addressed "flaws" in the legislation.

Christina McAnea, Unison's head of health, said: "The public will not forgive Lib Dem MPs for colluding with the Tories to break up and privatise the NHS. People are rightly proud of an NHS that puts patient need before private profit, and voting through this Bill will be the end of the NHS as we know it."

The Bill will receive its third reading in the Commons next week.

Health minister Earl Howe said: "The NHS will always be available to all, free at the point of use and based on need and not the ability to pay. Modernising the NHS will both safeguard the future of our health service, and will deliver a world-class health service that puts patients at the heart of everything it does.

"Our plans will cut the costs of administration by one-third over this Parliament, and every penny will be reinvested into frontline services to improve quality for patients."


From Belfast Telegraph