Leeds & West Yorkshire

Leeds NHS staff in protest over cuts and reforms

Health workers, patients and activists are protesting in Leeds against cuts to local health services and proposed changes to the NHS.

The Leeds Keep Our NHS group organised the event in Millennium Square to raise awareness and encourage people to get involved.

Mark Renwick, a mental health nurse at the Becklin Centre, said the campaign had received a "great public response".

"There is a feeling people are really opposed to these changes," he added.

A Department of Health spokesperson said that NHS services would "remain free at the point of delivery", but added the health service "needs to change".

The group said it was opposed to what it saw as "creeping privatistion" in health minister Andrew Lansley's Health and Social Care bill and cuts to local services.

'Could destroy NHS'

A specialist children's heart surgery unit at Leeds General Infirmary (LGI) could be moved out of Yorkshire and the cancer ward at St James' Hospital is under threat of closure, while the Leeds Crisis Centre for mental health treatment has already shut.

James Chan, a doctor at the York District Hospital and member of the campaign, said he was taking part because he believed the government's proposed changes were "not the right way to go about improving things".

"This could destroy the NHS as we know it," he added.

Last week, a group of GPs published a letter in the Daily Telegraph in support of the the health minister's proposal.

Richard Bateman, a student at the University of Leeds and activist in the Keep Our NHS group, said the main aim of Saturday's protest was to "show people there is a campaign set up and encourage them to get involved".

The demonstration, which started at 1200 GMT, is a prelude to a bigger protest planned for May 28 when campaigners will march from St James's Hospital to LGI.

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