CAMPAIGNERS involved in the successful battle to keep Gloucestershire's community health services public have now written an open letter to every GP in the county asking for their support in protecting other parts of the NHS from privatisation.

The Gloucestershire branch of campaigning group 38 Degrees, which has over one million members nationally, says it is calling on GPs to do everything in their power to help prevent the break-up of the NHS.

As a result of the Government's Health and Social Care Act, Gloucestershire's £750 million health budget, which is currently controlled by the Primary Care Trust, will be handed over to a new Clinical Commissioning Group in April 2013.

The letter sent by 38 Degrees to Gloucestershire's GPs requests that they do not sign off on the constitution, which would finalise the new decision-making arrangements, until it has been strengthened.

After seeking legal advice, members of the group are urging GPs to back a more strongly worded constitution, which they say will do more to protect the NHS 'from wasteful reorganisation, erosion and fragmentation'.

David Perry, a spokesman for the Gloucestershire 38 Degrees campaign, said: "We are concerned that, despite government promises, there will be a huge amount of pressure on CCGs to privatise NHS services and offer them out to tender - something we totally oppose. 

"There is a lot of confusion, but the fact is that CCGs do not have to tender services, and we are asking them for stronger commitments that they will not expose the NHS to a bidding war unnecessarily."

Mervyn Hyde, the group's chairman, said: "The experience with the district hospitals shows that there is an alternative to tendering out our health services - but also, that we have to fight for it, in the face of confusion and misinformation."

The contract for Gloucestershire's GP out of hours service - currently held by Great Western Ambulance Service NHS Trust - is one such contract which could be auctioned off to private firms.

A petition demanding that the service be retained within the public sector has been launched and can be viewed at: