HEALTH Secretary Andrew Lansley will visit York this weekend to speak at a Conservative Party fundraiser – but he is set to face strong protests over his proposed NHS reforms.

Mr Lansley is due to be the guest speaker at a black-tie dinner organised by the York Conservatives organisation at the Merchant Adventurer’s Hall on Saturday night.

But campaigners from the York Stop The Cuts group plan to don tuxedos, ballgowns and masks and cut up a giant papier-maché pie outside the venue to voice their anger at what they claim is a threat to “slice up the NHS”.

Proposals in the Health and Social Care Bill would mean more power being given to GPs and other clinicians over their budgets, but fears have been voiced that encouraging more competition will damage the NHS through ‘backdoor privatisation’.

York Stop The Cuts campaigner Graham Martin said: “Andrew Lansley represents one of the most dangerous policies of this Government in allowing private profit to gain a foothold in the NHS at a local level.

“We believe it is a slap in the face that he is coming to York to help raise money for his party while local public services are being cut and told they will not be getting any more money.”

Mr Martin said the protest, which the group has dubbed a “masquerade ball”, would be a peaceful one and that the huge pie the campaigners will be bringing to Piccadilly on Saturday night would be used purely to send a message, adding: “We will not be throwing it at anybody!

“We decided on the black-tie theme because we want people to get into the spirit of things. I don’t think protesters should always have to be tagged with the scruffy stereotypes, and if people are dressing up to raise money for their political party, we will be doing the same to raise our message.”

A Facebook page informing people of the protest in the style of a formal invitation has also been set up.

Mr Lansley told GPs in Liverpool last weekend that monitoring of NHS healthcare was to be extended to 11 extra areas of medicine to allow patients to make more informed choices.

He has also said the proposed reforms would reduce red-tape in the health service and allow GPs to have more of a say in its running, as well as helping it cope with the demands of an ageing population and rising drug and treatment costs.