A NORTH-EAST doctor at the forefront of a campaign against the Government’s controversial plan to overhaul the NHS last night insisted: “We will continue to fight it.”

As MPs prepared to vote on the Health and Social Care Bill, nearly 30 health professionals from across the North- East and North Yorkshire signed a letter saying the reworked Bill would “cause irreparable harm to the health service”.

The protest also accused David Cameron of “misleading the public by repeatedly stating that there will be no privatisation of the NHS”.

Last night, Dr Clive Peedell, a cancer consultant at The James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesbrough, said: “The overwhelming feeling is that doctors want the Bill withdrawn.”

Dr Peedell represents the North-East on the national council of the British Medical Association and proposed the motion calling for a public campaign against the Bill.

He said the Bill was a “clear drive towards increasing privatisation that goes completely against what the coalition Government is saying”.

And he said he feared that involving the private sector would lead to a fragmentation of the NHS and increasing costs.

Dr Peedell added: “We think this will be very damaging.

They will only want to take on the profitable parts because they have a legal duty to their shareholders.”

But ministers accused critics of “ludicrous scaremongering”

as MPs began two days of debate on the Bill – ruling out further big concessions.

As few as six Liberal Democrats are expected to rebel tonight.

Unhappy Lib Dems have tabled a series of amendments and are hopeful that ministers will give ground on at least one – the retention of restrictions on private-sector treatment in NHS hospitals.

The Prime Minister was forced to put the brakes on the Bill earlier this year, setting up an independent review that found the original blueprint had sparked “genuine and deep-seated concerns”.

Mr Cameron accepted key recommendations, including that: 􀁧 Nurses, specialist doctors and other clinicians, as well as GPs, should join consortia that will commission care – and should meet in public, to ensure “transparency about how public money is spent”; 􀁧 Competition, allowing private firms to supply NHS services, should only be allowed “to secure greater choice and better value for patients.

It should be used not as an end in itself”.

However, primary care trusts (PCTs), which employed 4,000 NHS staff across the region before jobs started to be shed, will still be abolished by 2013.

And there are still doubts about whether Heath Secretary Andrew Lansley will retain ultimate responsibility for the NHS – a responsibility that he sought to abandon in his original Bill.

In the letter, more than 400 grassroots health professionals said the Bill “lacks an electoral mandate”, adding: “We call on the Government to withdraw the Bill.”

But speaking in the Commons, Mr Lansley dismissed his critics, telling MPs: “We have introduced additional safeguards against privatisation.

This Bill, for the first time, stops the Secretary of State trying, deliberately, to increase the market share of a particular private provider.”

Lib Dem amendments include: 􀁥 A rethink of plans to scrap the cap on semi-independent foundation hospitals treating paying patients – allegedly squeezing out those seeking NHS treatment; 􀁥 A guarantee that doctors working for private health firms do not form a majority on the new clinical commissioning groups.

But John Pugh, a leading Lib Dem critic, said it was too late to kill the Bill, adding: “At the outset, I would cheerfully have seen this Bill strangled at birth, but that would be problematic now. There is no obvious happy ending.”

􀁧 Doctors from the region who signed the letter calling for the complete withdrawal of the Bill were: Alice Arrowsmith, Sunderland; John Atkins, Middlesbrough; Giuseppe Bignardi, Sunderland; Helen Coyne, Newcastle; Jane Dickinson, Newcastle; Alison Gill, York; Helen Groom, Gateshead; Sue Haves, Darlington; David Hunter, Durham; Lesley Kay, Newcastle; Anthony Macklon, Durham; MP Mayfield, Harrogate; Gerry McBride, Sunderland; Helen Murrell, Gateshead; Chitra Pandilwar, Newcastle; S Pedinti, Middlesbrough; Clive Peedell, Middlesbrough; Gerard Reissmann, Newcastle; Wendy Ross, Newcastle; Nigel Speight, Durham; Kate Stobbart, Newcastle; Manjit Suchdev, Gateshead; Neil Todd, York; David Tomson, Newcastle; Tony Waterston, Newcastle; Martin White, Newcastle; Jantje Wilken, Newcastle.