AN 'extraordinary' protest against cuts in NHS services could rival the poll tax rebellion of the early 1990s.
Government ministers were handed the warning as people in Huddersfield joined a march protesting about plans to switch vital services from the town to Halifax.
In doing so they were part of a movement building up across the UK and threatening to rival the rebellion against the hated poll tax.
Members of the public have been turning out in their thousands in recent weeks to demonstrate against closures or cutbacks across the country.
Places affected have included Nottingham, Cambridge, Manchester, Sheffield, Birmingham and Epsom.
Apart from today's Huddersfield action marches were also being held today in Huntingdon and Southampton. Other protests will take place this month in Oxford and Guildford.
Unions and other organisers of the events have expressed amazement at the number of people joining in.
Geoff Martin, head of campaigning at pressure group Health Emergency, said: "An extraordinary grassroots movement against Government policy on hospital closures and privatisation is putting thousands of people on the streets every weekend in villages, town and cities the length and breadth of the country.
"There's been nothing like this since the spontaneous rebellion against the poll tax in the early 90s.
"The Government are right to be worried. The full scale of their closure programme - which will involve up to 60 major acute hospitals - has yet to hit home.
"When it does the scale of the protest will ratchet up several notches.
"This growing NHS protest could well do for New Labour what the poll tax did for Margaret Thatcher and the Tories."
The Huddersfield march is the third since health chiefs announced plans to move key services - including some maternity services - to Halifax.
Karen Jennings, head of health at the Unison union, said: "Local people are joining these protests in their droves because they care about their local hospital.
"It shows people are not interested in choice or privatisation. What they want is a good local hospital they can use when they are sick.
"Placard-waving MPs have joined us on protests - but at the same time they vote for policies that threaten local hospitals.
"This is a mass movement of people demonstrating that they want their hospitals to stay open."
* The march set off from St Luke's Hospital in Crosland Moor at 11am and arrived in St George's Square by 12.30pm. It then made its way round the town centre.