CAMPAIGNERS have asked health chiefs to defend the NHS from being broken up by profitmaking private companies.

Local representatives from the ‘campaigning community’ 38 Degrees attended the first meeting of the governing body of the South Worcestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) last month.

The group is managed by senior GPs and other clinical leaders who will take over the purse strings for care in the south of the county, including Evesham, Pershore and Worcester, from April.

Figures show that £6.8 million of NHS cash went to private sector providers in Worcestershire in 2011/12, the bulk of which (£5.1 million) was spent on south Worcestershire.

The majority of expenditure was for BMI including Droitwich and Spire.

Patricia Woodcock, of Harvington, organiser for the Worcestershire 38 Degrees, said: “Our NHS is precious. We’re relying on you to protect it.

Please do all you can to stop local health services being broken up or taken over by irresponsible private companies.”

The group has organised a ‘Save the NHS’ campaign which has already attracted 605,950 signatures.

Simon Trickett, the chief operating officer of the CCG, said: “We can’t give a commitment we will never work with the private sector. Our strategy is one built around integration and joining things up. We are determined to be as open and transparent an organisation as can be.”

Dr Anthony Kelly, chairman and clinical lead for Droitwich, promised to listen to the campaigners.