NHS campaigners brave elements to gather signatures

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CAMPAIGNERS concerned about the future of the National Health Service weathered the wind and rain on Saturday to gather support for a nationwide petition.

Rallies in Montague Street, Worthing, and at Findon Village Hall were organised as part of a day of action by campaign group 38 Degrees.

The ‘Save our NHS’ petition will be presented to all parliamentary candidates and calls on them to protect NHS funding and keep it a priority in the run up to the general election.

38 Degrees member Peter Keiley, 67, said: “We campaign on not just the NHS, but on many other things; and regardless of political party, anything that concerns ordinary people, concerns us.

“Today we’re here to collect signatures, as we are in about 9,000 sites across the country.

“We expect a million signatures nationally, and we’re going to put them in front of all the parliamentary candidates before the election, irrespective of their party, to ensure that they know the NHS is vitally important to everybody, and make sure they will keep it at the top of their agenda.”

The group also shared concerns about what they said was creeping privatisation of healthcare and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, TTIP, and its Investor-State Dispute Settlement clause (ISDS).

Campaigners warned that TTIP could allow more international private companies to sue governments for profits if national policies do not allow them equivalent market access and rights.

The TTIP is expected to change EU standards on food safety, the environment and manufacturing, and bring them closer to those of the US.

Because US regulations are less strict in some areas, for example in the use of genetically modified ingredients in food, some campaigners are concerned that UK consumers will be adversely affected.

There has also been criticism of the secrecy surrounding negotiations and it is feared it will undermine democracy if future trade dispute decisions are reviewed by tribunals, not governments.

The Green Party parliamentary candidate, David Aherne, went along to support the campaigners.

He said: “We are the only party completely committed to keeping the NHS in the public sector and free at the point of delivery, and when I hear others saying it should be privatised, I am deeply shocked.”

“I personally support the work of 38 Degrees because they are one of the most successful groups in challenging the government’s most appalling policies. such as the back-door piecemeal out-sourcing of the NHS.”

The Worthing campaigners collected 250 signatures on the day, with around 20 turning out to support the event.

Several others attended the Findon gathering, before moving on to Storrington.