by Daphne Liddle
PRIME MINISTER David Cameron is losing his grip as health professionals, unions, patients and the general public become more united in their determination to stop the NHS reforms that would lead to private control of the NHS budget.
Earlier this week Cameron held an “emergency summit” at Downing Street to discuss the implementation of the Health and Social Care Bill, which is currently being debated in the House of Lords.
But he pointedly excluded all the major professional bodies and unions who have declared their opposition to the changes — and who represent over a million doctors, nurses and other health professionals.
Organisations barred from the meeting — because they oppose the Bill — include the British Medical Association (BMA), the Royal College of GPs, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, the Royal College of Nursing, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Unison and Unite.
Furthermore the Tories have tried to discipline a senior doctor after he signed a joint letter to the Independent opposing the Bill. Professor John Ashton, NHS Cumbria’s director of public health, has summoned by county health chiefs to “explain and account” for his actions.
Then the Government refused to publish its own risk assessment of the consequences of the changes, leaving MPs, doctors and unions are wondering why and what has Cameron got to hide?
There is speculation that the report reveals serious risks to patient welfare if family doctors, who will be given responsibility for control of almost the whole NHS budget, prove incompetent as managers and accountants.
The Tories are denying this step is effective privatisation but it is generally expected that most groups of GPs — to be known as commissioning bodies — will hand over the management of their budgets to private healthcare companies.
This would put the purse strings of the whole NHS in private hands, a power they will no doubt use to maximise profits for their own companies, regardless of the outcome for patients.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley appealed against a ruling made last November by the information commissioner that the risk report must be published. But it was finally published on Wednesday morning after Labour MPs forced a debate on the Government’s refusal to release it.
A letter endorsed by senior medical leaders, including BMA Chair Hamish Meldrum, the chair of the Royal College of GPs, Dr Clare Gerada, and the Royal College of Nursing’s chief executive, Dr Peter Carter, said: “In the light of the huge public and political concern about the government proposal to restructure the NHS, we find it astonishing that the Government persists in their refusal to publish the risk register which would enable the public to understand the potential hazards that the Health and Social Care Bill presents.”
Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham, told the House of Commons: “MPs and peers simply cannot be expected to give final approval to a far-reaching change of this magnitude to our country’s best-loved institution.”
Labour MPs managed to persuade 14 Liberal Democrat MPs to back their call, in an early-day motion, calling for the release of the risk report.
Public hostility to the Bill is growing and on Monday press cameras caught protester June Hautot haranguing Lansley outside Downing Street. But reporters failed to catch Cameron being confronted by an angry nurse in a Newcastle Hospital, because according to reports, the press were locked in a waiting room until the incident was over.
The exchange between the female hospital worker and the Prime Minister, details of which were revealed by Eoin Clarke over the weekend, has been vehemently denied by Number 10.
The Con-Dem Coalition is getting desperate. Polite cajoling and pretence are being ditched in favour of brute force. The Bill is exposed as the end of the NHS as we know it and the Tories want to ram it through in the teeth of mounting popular anger and outrage.
But the Bill is vulnerable; it will not take much more to kill it. We must all support the lobby and rally outside Parliament on the afternoon of Wednesday 7th March.
Those who cannot be there in person must contact their MPs and tell them to oppose the Bill. There is not time to waste. The NHS is at stake.