ANTI-PRIVATISATION campaigners are celebrating a landmark victory after the board of NHS Gloucestershire voted to keep community health services, including Stroud General Hospital, publicly run.

At a meeting on Monday morning, health bosses unanimously supported retaining the eight community hospitals, nine health clinics and 3,000 staff within the NHS, rather than auctioning them off to other providers.

Board members agreed to seek the establishment of a new standalone NHS trust to keep services publicly owned, rejecting the alternative option of a tender process, which would have opened the door for private firms to bid to takeover services.

The Primary Care Trust’s decision was met with loud applause and cheers from health campaigners who were at the meeting and who have fought a spirited and determined 18-month battle against plans to outsource care.

Caroline Molloy, a member of Stroud Against the Cuts and a co-ordinator of the Keep Gloucestershire’s NHS public campaign, said the result showed what ordinary people could achieve when they came together.

Paying tribute to everyone who had supported the campaign, she said: "This is a triumph of people power, and the outcome we have worked for from the start."

Retired railway worker and Stroud resident Michael Lloyd, 76, whose High Court legal challenge in February forced the PCT to abandon its plans to transfer services over to a social enterprise, said he was ‘delighted’ with the decision.

"Market forces have their place in society but they are not appropriate when it comes to the delivery of healthcare and public services," he said.

More than 2,500 members of the public responded to a consultation run by the PCT, with 96% saying they wanted to see services remain within the NHS.

A 6,530 strong petition and a survey of staff, in which 91% of respondents favoured creating a new trust, also demonstrated overwhelming support for keeping services in the public sector.

On hearing of the PCT’s decision, former Stroud MP David Drew said common sense had prevailed, whilst his Labour colleague Stephen Lydon, a district councillor for the Stanleys ward, insisted that the outcome should be seen as one victory in the context of a much broader struggle against cuts and austerity.

Speaking afterwards, Jan Stubbings, the Chief Executive of NHS Gloucestershire, said: "Board members took their responsibilities very seriously and considered the potential options available very carefully.  

"It is now time to look to the future and we are confident that everyone – staff, community partners and the public – will pull together to make sure that community support and local services are the best they can be."

The PCT will now write to NHS South of England to ask them to contact the Department of Health on their behalf to request an establishment order for a new NHS Trust to be created by 1 April 2013.