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Last Updated: Saturday, 9 September 2006, 15:35 GMT 16:35 UK
TUC voices health reforms fears
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The government has been accused of forcing through NHS reforms
Trade union leaders have accused the government of forcing through ill- conceived NHS reforms.

Unison General Secretary David Prentis and TUC leader Brendan Barber voiced their frustrations ahead of the TUC's annual congress in Brighton.

Delegates at next week's meeting are expected to support a nationwide campaign to defend the health service.

Meanwhile, up to 5,000 people have protested in Plymouth and Lincolnshire against planned NHS cuts.

About 2,000 people are protesting against cuts at Derriford Hospital, Plymouth, where the Trust is proposing to close 50 beds and 400 posts to bridge a projected 25m funding gap.

Also, about 3,000 people are demonstrating against planned changes to emergency and maternity services at a Lincolnshire Hospital.

'Change of direction'

The BBC's Stephen Cape said unions were "frustrated" over what they saw as a "change of direction" for the NHS.

The TUC is expected to organise further protest rallies and demonstrations across the UK.

One of our nation's great assets is pulled from under our feet, and we as a public are doing nothing
Will Chellam, Liverpool

Mr Prentis also claimed that there had been a raft of ill thought out reforms on a number of issues, such as the decision to sell NHS Logistics - a hospital supplies organisation to a private company.

The union leader said: "This has not been thought through, there has been no discussion, there's been no analysis and now we are faced with waves and waves of initiatives."

Mr Prentis later warned that the entire NHS could be up for grabs and industrial action has not been ruled out.

Mr Barber said morale among healthcare staff had plunged.

But a spokesman for the Department of Health spokesman denied they were turning the NHS into a "private service".

"We are fully committed to the founding values of the NHS - care is delivered according to clinical need, delivered free to patients, and funded by general taxation," he said.

"If the private sector or voluntary organisations can help the NHS deliver even better services for patients and get better value for money for taxpayers, then of course we will use them. If they can't, we won't. It is as straightforward as that."

Last month some 27,000 people took part in a march protesting against a decision to cut health services and jobs in Cornwall.


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