The public has just 13 days to halt the government's controversial health reforms and save the NHS from falling into the hands of private companies, a union leader warned tonight.
Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite, accused ministers of "steamrollering" its Health and Social care Bill through against widespread opposition from health professionals.
He joined thousands of nurses, midwives, doctors, physiotherapists, cleaners, porters and other NHS workers at a rally in Westminster in a last-ditch attempt to scupper the Bill.
The protest was held a day after opposition efforts to rein in the Bill were defeated in the House of Lords.
Peers voted down amendments designed to restrict the role of regulator Monitor and protect the NHS from European competition law, in a sign that concessions made by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley may have been enough to reassure Liberal Democrat critics and secure the passage of the Bill through Parliament by the May 9 Queen's Speech.
McCluskey told the rally it was expected that the Bill will pass into law by March 20, despite "almost universal opposition" from health professionals, from doctors to paramedics, as well as the general public.
"We have just 13 days to save the NHS from falling into the hands of the private healthcare companies that are set to make millions in profits for their shareholders.
"The government is steamrollering the Bill through parliament despite united opposition from professionals, patients and the public. The amendments in the Lords may have bought off the Lib Dems but they will do nothing for patients and the public will see through them.
"The public needs to step up the pressure and urge MPs to vote against this Bill. Otherwise the NHS that we have known since its formation in 1948 - a universal service, free at the point of delivery - will disappear forever into the hands of profiteers."
Dave Prentis, Unison's general secretary, said: "This is our last chance to save the NHS. Cameron knows he can't allow the Bill to hang around any longer because the more people see of it, the more they hate it. The more people read it, the more come out in their droves and demand it is scrapped.
"Cameron is forcing it through. A few cosmetic tweaks from Clegg and that's it - no more debates, no further chance for MPs to have any meaningful say. They blocked disclosure of the risk register, they blocked a debate on the e-petition that more than 160,000 of us signed. Now they want to rush the Bill onto the statute book before the Budget.
"Talk about burying bad news. It doesn't get any worse than this - those with cash in their pocket can jump the queue for treatment, competition replacing compassion. The vultures in the healthcare companies circling - ready to put profits above patient care."
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "The All Together for the NHS campaign is an unprecedented alliance of unions, royal colleges, professional groups, health service staff, patients and members of the public. Together we are speaking up for a publicly-accountable health service, for the values that make our NHS special and for the ethos of public service itself.
"The government's Bill represents the biggest threat our NHS has ever seen. It will mean £3 billion spent on change instead of care, NHS patients pushed to the back of the queue by those with fatter chequebooks, and a postcode lottery of provision.
"The Bill will also mean privatisation on a huge scale, with our health service opened up to competition by any willing provider. Private firms will profit by cherry-picking the easiest, most lucrative work - leaving the taxpayer to pick up the tab for everything else. That is simply not acceptable.
"This is a Bill that is wrong for patients, wrong for the public, and wrong for Britain. Virtually nobody wants these reforms, almost nobody supports them, and certainly nobody voted for them."
A psychiatric nurse, speech therapist, paramedic and pregnant mother joined union leaders and politicians in making speeches at the rally, as well as comedian Jo Brand, who once worked as a psychiatric nurse.