NHS campaign update. After the Commons vote
The House of Commons have now voted through the government’s controversial Health and Social Care Bill, and passed it on to the House of Lords as the next step towards becoming law.
Despite the government’s “listening exercise” and changes to the Bill, what was passed in the Commons yesterday is still a toxic combination of competition, markets and fragmentation that strikes at the founding principles of the NHS. To take just a few examples of the areas where we still have serious concerns:
•The Bill means increased competition instead of collaboration. This is despite evidence that the NHS is one of the most cost effective health care systems in the world – much more so than in the USA, where competition is central. Plans to allow ‘Any Qualified Provider’ to deliver NHS services will open up swathes of the NHS to private and voluntary sector providers.
•It still means private patients jumping the queue. The Bill removes the cap on the amount of money NHS hospitals can make from private patients. This could mean NHS patients being pushed to the back of the queue for care. With foundation trusts strapped for cash, the temptation to prioritise paying patients will be strong.
•It means a fragmented system and lack of accountability. The government would no longer have a direct duty to provide a comprehensive health service. It would be up to local commissioning groups to determine what to provide as part of the NHS. This could intensify postcode lotteries for care.
•There are still fears about transparency. Private and voluntary sector providers will have a much bigger role delivering NHS services if the Bill goes through, but the Bill doesn’t hold them to the same standards of transparency as NHS providers.
•The reform is getting even more expensive. On the tightest financial settlement in many years, the NHS is also being asked to make ‘efficiency savings’ of £20bn by 2014-15. The cost of the reorganisation is estimated to be up to another £3bn. We already know that tens of thousands of jobs are being cut, including clinical posts.
Despite the Commons vote, the campaign to halt this Bill is not stopping here. With senior Liberal Democrat Peers concerned about the repercussions of the Bill, there could be a lot of scope for resistance and amendments to it. We’ll be pressing Peers of all parties to take an active role in the debate and to listen to the widespread concerns of NHS service users and staff about the risks to the future of our National Health Service.
What can you do?
We’re asking people to adopt a Peer for the coming debates. Write to them to let them know your concerns, and how much we expect from them, now they’re carrying the responsibility for the future of our NHS. We’ll be asking you to write to them several times, focusing on different issues and amendments.
Adopt a Peer now
And keep making a noise about the NHS wherever you can. The media and the public need to know that not everyone is convinced that the Bill has fundamentally changed, and that it still represents the greatest threat to the NHS in the 63 years since it was founded. We’ll be back with more on this very soon.