Labour’s shadow health secretary Andy Burnham visits Norwich to drum up support for ‘Drop the Bill’ campaign

Labour's shadow health team has visited Norwich to drum up support for a campaign urging the Government to axe its unpopular Health and Social Care Bill.

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham told health professionals and members of Unison and the Labour Party at a question and answer session at The Forum that the proposed legislation was 'the greatest threat to the NHS in it's 63-year history'.

He called upon activists to follow the lead of Norwich City director Stephen Fry, who yesterday urged his nearly 4m followers on social networking website Twitter to sign up to the 'Drop the Bill' e-petition online.

So far nearly 40,000 people have signed up to the e-petition and while Mr Burnham said many good local campaigns had been run along similar lines, he was trying to bring all the different opposition groups together to give a national focus and a national voice to show the Coalition the true extent of the unpopularity of the reforms.

He was joined by shadow health ministers Jamie Reed and Diane Abbott, who took questions about Labour's policies on health and said that while the Bill purported to be giving more power to clinicians, in their view it was a blatant attempt to open up the NHS to privatisation.

Mr Burnham, who also took the time to visit Hellesdon Hospital on his trip to the city, revealed he would be giving a speech on mental health next week, said the private sector still had role to play within a planned system, but to open up the NHS to a market-based system which is subject to commercial contracts was unacceptable.

He said: 'That's a fundamental break with 63 years of NHS history. It's a 'genie out of the bottle' moment where the NHS as we know it would come to an end.'

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Chris Francis, a Norwich GP who is co-chairman of the Norwich Clinical Commissioning Group, asked what was Labour's 'plan B'.

Mr Burnham said: 'Plan B right now, if the Bill was dropped, would be to ask your emerging team to work with the other clinical commissioning groups to get a single leadership which would work under the same area as the old PCT. I think that saves money, cuts disruption but delivers clinical commissioning.'

He revealed that he was in the process of forming Labour's health policy for the next election and said he wanted to see better integration of mental health, physical health and social care.

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