DEMONSTRATORS gathered outside Stroud MP Neil Carmichael’s office this morning, Tuesday, to protest against his reluctance to sign a support pledge to keep Gloucestershire’s NHS public.

Speaking on a Stroud community radio station this week, Mr Carmichael echoed the views he expressed in a letter to the SNJ published last week (April 11), in which he said a tendering process to outsource care services in the county was inevitable.

Campaign group Stroud Against the Cuts (SATC) drew up the pledge to fight to retain provision within the NHS after a legal challenge in February blocked plans to transfer services to a social enterprise.

The outcome of the judicial review means a tendering process could take place which may see a procurement of services by private companies but the group argue that such a process is unnecessary, so long as an NHS body comes forward.

However, in his letter, Mr Carmichael, who also sent a copy to SATC, disagrees.

"The outcome of the judicial review will inevitably require the PCT to advertise for expressions of interest and, if they are received, a competitive tender process will have to follow," he writes.

In response, SATC chairman James Beecher said: "No one ever voted for privatisation of the NHS.

"The Tories did not put it in their manifesto and in fact promised no top down reorganisation."