A CAMPAIGNING Hagley doctor is among hundreds of people worried about the future of the NHS gearing up for a march to Parliament.
Dr David Nicholl, consultant neurologist working in Birmingham, will be taking part in the People's March for the NHS which will follow the route taken by the 1936 Jarrow Crusaders who marched from north east England to the Houses of Parliament to protest against unemployment and poverty.
Dr Nicholl, a 49-year-old father-of-three, said he's taking part in the walk, organised by the 999 Call for the NHS campaign, because "politicians aren't listening to the doctors" and he, like many, is concerned "the NHS in England is being carved up for profit right in front of our eyes".
He said: "We warned this government that their reforms were making a dogs breakfast of the NHS.
"An utterly scandalous £3billion has been wasted on a pointless reorganisation of the health service with no evidence of any improvements in patient care.
"We need the politicians to face up to the financial reality of the NHS and accept that we must have a universal health care system that is publicly accountable and publicly funded and driven by quality and not profits."
He said he thanks the NHS, and his late father, for saving him from a serious brain injury when he nearly gassed himself at the age of five. The NHS was also there, he said, for his dad when he fell ill with Parkinson's disease.
He added: "My father, who was also a doctor, devoted his life to the care of his patients.
"I am marching because he would expect nothing less of us than to stand up and be counted. It has to be ordinary people that take the politicians on because it is our NHS."
He said he believes, despite claims to the contrary, that the most efficient and least costly healthcare systems in the world are tax-payer funded - not private or insurance based.
And he added: "The well-respected Kings Fund has come up with the same conclusion as has the US based Commonwealth Fund.
"The Commonwealth Fund established that out of 11 westernised countries, the NHS came up number one. Yet the NHS is under threat like at no other time in its history."
Organisers of the People's March say they don't want to see private companies operating in the NHS under the heading of 'efficiency' when they are accountable to shareholders interested in maximum profits over patient care.
Campaigners plan to set off from Jarrow on August 16 and they aim to arrive in London in time for Prime Minister's Questions on September 6.
Dr Nicholl will be joining the march as it passes through Leicester on Sunday August 31.
He said: "I hope as many people as possible support this march in any way they can - the NHS needs us.
"Anyone who thinks the NHS is not being broken up for the private sector either does not know what they are talking about or is lying.
"As we speak, private health firms are bidding for £1.2 billion worth of cancer services in Staffordshire, and Richard Branson's Virgin Healthcare grabbed £500 million for a variety of health services in Surrey. These companies will cherry-pick the easy clinical work, leaving more complex, expensive work to the public sector in a fragmented service.
"The chief executive of the NHS, Simon Stevens, has announced earlier this month Personal Health Budgets to offer patients money for their own care- up to £1,000 each to at least five million patients to pay for their own care.
"Seems a good idea - except there is no mention of what happens when the cash runs out and the Netherlands which introduced Personal Health Budgets - is now phasing them out. So why are we thinking of this in UK? It provides a deliberate gap in the market for private healthcare insurance to come in to offer to help fill the gaps in NHS care."
Dr Nicholl's MP Sajid Javid (Bromsgrove), a member of the Cabinet and tipped as a possible future leader of the Conservative Party, told the News: "Our NHS is an asset to the country which should be valued and protected.
"Despite the huge budget deficit it inherited, the government has rightly increased spending on health. Bureaucracy has been cut, whilst the numbers of doctors and nurses has risen sharply."
People wishing to take part in the People's March can walk a mile or ten - or take part in the full 300-mile trek.
To find out more visit http://999callfornhs.org.uk/