A SOCIALIST activist in Wyre Forest has challenged the main political parties to be "open about the break-up of the NHS" at a public meeting.

Worcestershire Socialist Party chairman Nigel Gilbert was speaking after about 30 people attended the session, which heard speeches from Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) chairman Dave Nellist and former Wyre Forest MP and health campaigner Dr Richard Taylor.

The meeting was held at the Annexe next to St George's Church, Kidderminster and organisers argued "the NHS has already been abolished, there is no longer public planning and a great deal of public money is disappearing to private profit".

They were referring to some of the changes made by the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition Government 's 2012 Health and Social Care Act, a law which Labour has promised to revoke if it wins next year's general election.

Wyre Forest MP, Mark Garnier, who voted for the Act in the House of Commons, said healthcare was improving and bad practices were being driven out because of it.

Mr Gilbert said the country's health services were "returning to the chaotic patchwork of the 19th century". He added: "About 30 people attended the meeting. We were pleased with that because political meetings have been out of fashion recently but next time we need 300 there to counter the refusal of the main parties to be open about the break-up of the NHS."

At the meeting, Dr Taylor said: "We must return to a fully integrated national scheme which is publicly planned. This means abolishing PFI [private finance initiative] contracts and the split between purchasers and providers."

He added the NHS "must be exempted" from a proposed free trade agreement between the European Union and the United States - an international competition law.

Mr Nellist said: "The Government talks of transferring the NHS from the state to community-based care but this is simply a cover for handing it over to private organisations. We must return to the founding principles of the NHS in 1948, with free prescriptions, free eye care and free dental care.

"We can afford it. British capitalists currently hold more than £700 billion cash assets, which they do not know how to spend. We should also nationalise the drug companies."

Following the meeting, responding to some of the issues raised, Mr Garnier told The Shuttle: "What is key is the patient comes first and not the mechanism of the institution. As long as we maintain a free health service deliverable to all, then how the mechanism that delivers it works is largely immaterial.

"What we must never, ever again see is a return to the bad old days that saw the crisis at Stafford Hospital".