by Daphne Liddle
ANDREW LANSLEY’S flagship Health and Social Care Bill, which would turn the NHS into a privately run, two-tier service, is back in Parliament and about to be debated by the House of Lords.
It has acquired over 1,000 amendments since it was paused last year for a cosmetic rethink but opposition to it has only grown stronger.
The British Medical Association was not taken in. “Minor tweaking has not made the Health and Social Care Bill fit for purpose,” the BMA told the Lords.
Dr Hamish Meldrum, who chairs the BMA, said: “We recognise that some of the amendments recently set down by the Government suggest modest improvements in some areas, such as integration, training and education and giving patients a greater say in their health care.
“But these do little to address the issues which continue to cause us great concern, for example: an over reliance on ‘market forces’ remains at the core of the Bill, there is excessive control over commissioning groups, plans for incentives for commissioning are ill-thought through, and proposals to give hospitals more scope to generate income from private patients pose serious risks.
“The Government has had to make so many amendments to remedy the initial flaws in the legislation and has brought in so many checks and balances that the level of complexity and bureaucracy in the new NHS will be huge. It would be better to withdraw the Bill altogether and come up with a new plan — one that will actually improve care and make the NHS more efficient.”
All the Royal Colleges — GPs, Surgeons, Nurses, Midwives and so on — are opposed to the Bill. Patient groups are opposed. And the health service unions have been actively opposed from the beginning.
The 116-year-old Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association (CPHVA) has become the latest professional organisation to come out against the Bill.
Even the Labour leadership has belatedly joined the battle with Ed Miliband declaring that “we have three months to save the NHS”. And Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham has said that the Bill marks a “big break” with NHS history. But he thinks it can be defeated as the Government has failed to build a political and professional consensus behind the bill.
The bourgeois press is now posing the question: “Can Cameron save the health Bill?” Cameron has declared that he will stand by Health Secretary Lansley — and that signals how deeply the Bill is in trouble.
Three major medical journals have described the revamped Bill as an “unholy mess” and asserted that if the Bill is passed another one will be needed urgently within a few years to sort out the mess.
The Government is now trying to pressure the House of Lords to support the Bill, which will hand control of NHS finances to general practitioners. They have enough on their hands being doctors without being expected to be accountants and managers as well. They will hand the work over to the growing number of private healthcare companies that ready to pounce the moment the Bill is passed — if it goes through.
We all have an opportunity to voice our opposition to the Bill on Wednesday 7th March in the mass lobby of the House of Lords organised by health service unions and patient groups in the All Together campaign.
The lobby will be followed at 6pm with a Save our NHS rally in Central Hall, Westminster, organised by the union Unite.