Thousands to protest over reforms

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Thousands of people are expected to join a protest outside Parliament today as part of a demonstration against the Government's controversial health reforms.

Direct action group UK Uncut said trade unionists, pensioners, comedians including Josie Long and Mark Thomas and health workers will be among those planning to block Westminster Bridge.

The protest, described as a "spectacular act of mass civil disobedience", is being held just days before the House of Lords debates the Health and Social Care Bill.

A UK Uncut spokesman said: "Yes it will be disruptive and it will stop the traffic, but this is an emergency and if we want to save our NHS we need to shout as loud as we can. No-one voted for this bill, but together we can stop it."

A Department of Health spokesman said: "The principles of our modernisation plans - patient power, clinical leadership, a focus on results - have been widely supported, as reported by the independent NHS Future Forum.

"We accepted all of their recommendations to strengthen the bill but the most destabilising factor for the NHS would be greater uncertainty and delay of reform to the ultimate detriment of patients.

"We simply won't secure the future of the NHS without this bill."

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union, said: "UK Uncut has described the threat to our NHS as an emergency and it is absolutely right.

"The Government's Health and Social Care Bill represents the gravest threat to the NHS, one of our nation's finest achievements, since its foundation.

"Peaceful protest and civil disobedience have a long and proud history in this country, and are a perfectly legitimate response to plans that no-one voted for and no-one wants.

"This protest will send an important message of support to the brilliant doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers who work day in, day out to make our health service the envy of the world, and an equally important message of opposition to a Tory-led Government trying to unpick all of this."