MORE than 100 protesters marched through the centre of South-ampton at the weekend to "save the NHS".

The health workers, patients and supporters are opposing plans by the Department of Health to open an independent sector treatment centre in the Royal South Hants Hospital by the end of next year.

Protesters say the clinics are taking money out of the health service and cost significantly more than providing the same services through the NHS.

The protesters were given a police escort as they marched against the plans to open the privately run profit-making clinic.

They chanted loudly and showed their opposition as they walked from the Royal South Hants Hospital, along Above Bar Street and past WestQuay shopping centre before finishing in a rally at Hogland's Park.

Several protesters then gave speeches opposing the problems of "dismantling of the NHS" in the city.

One person speaking at the rally was Bobby Noyes, 60, who runs the library service in many hospitals in south-west Hampshire.

She said: "The protest was smaller than we had hoped, but the problem is, unless something closes, people will not understand the threat from privatisation. We are trying to wake people up to the problems of a possible two-tier service that will see people with chronic illnesses being given a second-rate service with all the money going to the private sector."

"We have been told there will definitely be a private independent treatment sector opened, but the problem is there has been no consultation. There are a lot of people with 20 or 30 years' experience at the NHS who have been told their jobs are at risk."

Linda Cooke, 47, has worked as a bio-medical scientist at both the Royal South Hants and Southampton General hospitals since 1982.

She said: "I joined the march because I'm worried about the creeping privatisation of the NHS going on in Southampton as we speak.

"Some of our secretaries are being told that their typing work is being moved to South Africa. I'm worried about how health chiefs are so obsessed about the budget that they don't seem to care about what's happening inside to the detriment of the hospital.

"All the building work is being done as we speak inside the hospital, so something is happening there."

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