A PETITION has been launched to prevent community health services for children being run by a private company.

Brighton and Hove City Council’s public health team has drawn up a new contract to run services including health visiting and school nursing in the city.

These are currently provided under different contracts run by Sussex Community NHS Trust but the plan is now to bring them together under a single one.

The trust has already shown an interest to continue running the services but government rules mean the contract has to be offered out to tender, giving private companies an opportunity to make a bid.

The online petition, set up by members of the campaign group Sussex Defend the NHS, says: “Community health services for children and young people include health visiting, school nursing and the family nurse partnership – a programme for teenage parents.

“These services are essential for our children’s wellbeing but they are now under the most severe threat.

“Private companies are being awarded huge contracts across many different health services but, because they want to make a profit, they reduce their costs by cutting staff and lowering standards and quality of care.

“We want to see them properly funded and run by the NHS.”

Campaigners are planning a protest march at the next council health and wellbeing board meeting on September 20.

People are being asked to meet outside Tarner Children’s Centre in Ivory Place at 2.30pm before marching to the Brighthelm Centre in North Road at 3.30pm.

A council spokesman said: “Last year the city’s health and wellbeing board, which comprises experts from the council and the local NHS, agreed to restructure the way services are delivered in these areas and bring them together under a single public health community nursing contract.

This contract will deliver the national Healthy Child Programme, which is available to all children and aims to ensure that every child gets the good start they need to lay the foundations of a healthy life.

“The restructure will lead to services being delivered in a more integrated and holistic manner.

“We are currently in the middle of a tendering process for this contract.

“This is being carried out in accordance with national procurement regulations that mean we have no powers to restrict applications to public sector bodies only.”

Find the petition on 38degrees.org.uk