HUNDREDS of campaigners fearing the privatisation of the NHS will today urge Southampton GP's to take action before it is too late.

The city's GP's will be faced with a petition carrying more than 800 signatures, calling on them to save the NHS from privatisation when the biggest shake-up to the health service takes effect next year.

Campaigners from the Southampton 38 Degrees Group will stage a protest outside the meeting of Southampton City's Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) today, in a bid to put pressure on GP's.

The group wants the CCG to rewrite its constitution from what they believe is “profit hungry” companies “eager” to break up the NHS.

It comes as local CCG's, made up of GP's, prepare to take control of the planning, designing, funding and implementation of health care services in April, as part of the biggest shake-up of the NHS since its formation, as the government attempts to make savings.

Part of those changes will allow GP's to offer more choice to patients, which will include opting for private services rather than NHS.

But the Southampton 38 Degrees Group argue that CCG's do not have to choose private providers, or even put services out to competition and can write this into their constitution.

The Gloucestershire branch of the campaign group persuaded their CCG to guarantee to use NHS providers, reversing their previous decision to tender them out to private bidders.

Now the Southampton branch wants the same to happen in the city, while there is still time to modify their constitution.

Abelardo Clariana, coordinator of the group, said: “The current constitution, which has only just been made available to the public, is worryingly vague about the principles Southampton CCG will follow in choosing the providers of our health services.

“Some of Southampton's health services have already been opened up to private providers. Yet splitting these services among lots of different providers is a sure way to break up the NHS.”

Dr Steve Townsend, chair of Southampton City CCG, said that they were “very happy” to meet with campaigners to listen to their concerns and “allay” any issues about the constitution.

He added: “The CCG's constitution is based on the official model constitution set out by the NHS National Commissioning Board. All member practices were involved throughout the development process and the constitution has been ratified by these practices.

“The constitution has been widely consulted on with member practices, the local authority and NHS provider services.”