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Lancastrians bank on keeping the NHS public

John Freeman

Lancaster was buzzing on Saturday as campaigners of Keep Our NHS Public were joined by groups from Lancaster and Morecambe Against the Cuts and UK Uncut Lancaster all eager to stand up for a publicly owned NHS.

Campaigners protested inside and outside the publicly owned banks in the town to highlight the fact that the banks are still raking in huge profits and paying very little tax at a time when NHS Trusts are abolishing hundreds of posts, leaving job vacancies unfilled and allowing waiting times to lengthen.

They also occupied the Lancaster branch of HSBC, turning it into an A&E; ward for half an hour. HSBC is diverting millions of pounds of NHS money from NHS private finance initiative (PFI) schemes into a Guernsey-based offshore investment firm that it set up, according to BBC reports, to create a legal tax loophole.

The HICL company – previously HSBC Infrastructure Company Limited – made over £38m profit from its 33 PFI schemes in just six months last year, and paid £100,000 in UK tax – less than 1 per cent of the profits.

The campaign group told virtual-lancaster the public were hugely supportive with 239 petition cards signed to send to local MPs and a massive 1500 leaflets given out.

As the campaign continues in protest at the government's plans, there will be a special 'Question Time' style debate on the NHS at the end of the month at the University of Cumbria. Titled 'NHS-Going, going, gone?', speakers will be Eric Ollernshaw OBE, MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood, Dr David Wrigley from Keep our NHS Public and others.

The event takes place on 30th June - the same day as the planned National Strike - at 7.30pm in the Hugh Pollaard Lecture Theatre, University of Cumbria Lancaster Campus.

• Please e-mail to register and submit your questions to the panel.

• Keep our NHS Public campaign: