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Lucy Powell pledges ‘full support’ to campaign against privatisation of Manchester’s patient transport service

By Jessica Phillips

Manchester Central’s Parliamentary Candidate Lucy Powell is pledging her ‘full support’ towards a campaign against the privatisation of Greater Manchester’s patient transportation service.

Ms Powell spoke at this week’s campaign launch meeting at Manchester town hall alongside Andrew Gwynne MP for Denton & Reddish and member of the Shadow Health team, Angela Rayner UNISON Northwest Region.

More than 100 people attended the meeting, which saw speakers discuss their objections to the move of privatising the service which provides non-urgent transportation to patients with hospital appointments.

Ms Powell said: “What is happening here is an utter disgrace. This is part of a much wider agenda that the government has. I will be giving you my full support.

“I want to receive hundreds of postcards and I want the government to know that these proposals are opposed by the people of Manchester City Centre.”

It was announced last week that private bus company Arriva won the bid over current provider North West Ambulance Service (NWAS).

The campaign was set up when Unison said that Arriva scored lower on quality but was seen as a much cheaper alternative to the NWAS by the government.

Unison has launched an online petition which has over 3000 signatures so far.

The Union has also produced a campaign pack which includes a petition for people to collect signatures from friends and family, a set of postcards which are aimed to be used at lobbying the support of MP’s and  to spread awareness and a leaflet proposing ideas to help with the campaign efforts.

There are also plans to take a group of volunteers to Westminster to directly address the issue with the government.

Shadow Health Minister, and Denton and Reddish MP, Andrew Gwynne said:

“It is shocking that the Tories are bringing their wretched privatisation experiment in health to Manchester. Our patient transport ambulance services are at the front line of health provision in Greater Manchester, yet Jeremy Hunt is clearly putting ideology first, with another bid failing to gain the contract despite being clearly better on quality.

“The Tories are letting down our healthcare professionals who work tirelessly to get around in our hours of greatest need. I hope they listen to our call to drop the plans, or we will see a clear drop in quality where it is needed most.”

Speakers discussed the service provided by NWAS and were clear that it could not be regarded as a taxi or bus service and that the 375 current staff directly employed by the NHS were caring professionals who could not be replaced with a private service.

Craig Wilde, a paramedic and branch secretary of the North West Ambulance Service delivered an emotional speech and said: “Our staff go in, make sure the patients are safe, make sure there is food in the cupboard and a brew on the table for them. These things aren’t in the contract but are something they do daily because they care. These are working people who care about your family. They care about the job they do.”

Angela Rayner, UNISON North West region, said: “The privatisation of non-emergency ambulance services in Greater Manchester is wrong.

“This is an important service, for people with real medical needs. It is a disgrace that the winning bidder was not the provider with the highest standards, just the lowest cost.”

To sign the petition, go to: savemanchesterpatienttransport.org.uk

For more on this story and many others, follow Mancunian Matters on Twitter and Facebook. 

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