MEMBERS of Stroud Against the Cuts have criticised MP Neil Carmichael for refusing to back a campaign to keep Gloucestershire’s NHS public.

On Friday, March 16, Caroline Molloy of SATC emailed the Tory MP to request that he supports efforts to retain hospitals and health services within the public sector.

In the email, she asked him to sign a pledge supporting ‘the right of NHS users and staff to have the choice for Gloucestershire’s community hospitals and health services to remain fully in the NHS, publicly owned and accountable’.

When the SNJ contacted Mr Carmichael the following Monday he said he needed more time to look at the pledge before deciding whether to sign.

The SNJ has since spoken to Mr Carmichael on several occasions about the issue, most recently on Monday this week, when he said he still had not had time to read the pledge, which is roughly a paragraph in length.

Caroline Molloy of SATC said: "He has had more than enough time to look at the pledge.

"I emailed it to him again a second time and read it out to him on the phone the next day.

"I think we would expect more from our local MP on a matter of great concern to large numbers of his constituents."

Despite not having read the pledge, Mr Carmichael told the SNJ that he suspected he would be unable to sign it because it would mean committing to a position that is ‘not deliverable’.

He said as a result of the high court challenge by Michael Lloyd last month, a tender process, which would allow private companies to bid for services, was ‘almost inevitable’.

However, SATC vehemently disputes this.

Members say any decision to offer health services to the private sector or other providers would be a purely political one and is not required by law.

James Beecher, SATC chairman, said: "The key point, confirmed by our legal advice which has after all prevailed in court, is that the primary care trust does not have to offer services to tender so long as an NHS body comes forward to run them."

But Mr Carmichael said: "A tendering process is almost inevitable given the court ruling. That is the view of the Department of Health.

"This is a decision the PCT has to take based on the legal advice it gets and that is where we are.

"I am not going to get into a position which is not deliverable because of the high court order."

On Monday, SATC sent postcards to Gloucestershire PCT chief executive Jan Stubbings urging her to listen to those calling for health services to remain publicly run.