The Destroy the NHS / Health and Social Care Bill passed it’s third reading yesterday with a mjority of 65. The bill will now pass to the House of Lords.
Many doctors and professional medical associations raised serious objections to the bill. The Royal College of Nursing and the Royal College of General Practicioners took exception to Prime Minister David Cameron’s claim that they supported his proposals.
Colin Leys – co-author of ‘The Plot Against the NHS’ – has an article in the Guardian.
Campaign group 38degrees responds to the government’s so-called Myth-busting nonsense and to many claims made by Andrew Lansley yesterday.
- Conservative election poster 2010
A few recent news articles about the UK’s Conservative and Liberal-Democrat coalition government – the ConDem’s – brutal attack on the National Health Service.
David Cameron faced embarrassment when medical leaders rejected his claim that they supported the government’s health reforms.
The row came hours before the health and social care bill was approved by MPs, after Cameron hailed the profession’s support at prime minister’s questions.
“Now you’ve got the Royal College of GPs, the physicians, the nurses, people working in the health service, supporting the changes we’re making,” he said.
The bodies questioned the prime minister’s claim. Peter Carter, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, told the BBC: “While we acknowledge that the government has listened to our members in a number of areas, we still have very serious concerns about where these reforms leave a health service already facing an unprecedented financial challenge.
“At a time when the NHS needs to find £20bn in efficiencies, tackle waste, work harder to prevent ill-health, and deal with an ageing population, we are telling MPs this bill risks creating a new and expensive bureaucracy and fragmenting care.”
Clare Gerada, chairwoman of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), said: “The college supports putting clinicians at the centre of planning health services. However, we continue to have a number of concerns about the government’s reforms, issues we believe may damage the NHS or limit the care we are able to provide for our patients.
“As a college we are extremely worried that these reforms, if implemented in their current format, will lead to an increase in damaging competition, an increase in health inequalities, and massively increased costs in implementing this new system. As independent research demonstrates, the NHS is one of the most efficient healthcare systems in the world and we must keep it that way.”
What Wednesday’s vote on the health and social care bill shows more clearly than anything is that many, if not most, of the political elite no longer care whether they are carrying out the wishes of the electorate, and barely pretend that we are any longer a democracy.
The prime minister promised before the 2010 election not to introduce any “top-down reorganisations” of the NHS; to say he, Andrew Lansley and Nick Clegg lack an electoral mandate for the bill is an understatement. It is also an understatement to say that they have not told the truth about the bill’s intentions, and that they have reduced Department of Health statements, such as its latest so-called MythBuster document, to a level of brazen mendacity that demeans a once great office of state.
The principle seems to be that if an official lie – such as that the bill does not imply privatisation – is repeated often enough, most people will feel it must be true. And by using existing powers to abolish PCTs and set up “pathfinder” so-called GP consortia, and making arrangements with foreign private companies to take over NHS hospitals, the government has also pre-empted such debate as MPs are inclined to have. The Conservative MP Dr Sarah Wollaston, who originally denounced the bill, now says that changes have already gone too far to oppose it any further – a remarkable statement of political impotence.
The bill will end the NHS as a comprehensive service equally available to all. People with limited means will have a narrowing range of free services of declining quality, and will once again face long waits for elective care. Everyone else will go back to trying to find money for private insurance and private care. More and more NHS hospital beds will be occupied by private patients. Doctors will be divided into a few who will become rich, and many who will end up working on reduced terms and with little professional freedom for large corporations (the staff of the hospitals that are being considered for handing over to private firms will have noted that the firms in question want “a free hand with staff”).
The one serious obstacle to the bill’s promoters has been the impact of social media: 38 Degrees, Facebook, expert bloggers and tweeters. Along with the million-plus people who work for the NHS, a steadily growing portion of, especially, younger voters, have been exposed to a different narrative and see through the spin. At the moment most of them may be more cynical than politically active. But if the bill becomes law and the reality begins to be felt in people’s daily lives it is this counter-narrative that will make sense. MPs – and now the Lords – would be well advised to ponder the implications of this.
Yesterday morning at 9:31 the Department of Health published a “myth buster” on a government website. It is published below, along with a number of corrections (shown in red).
MYTH: The Health Secretary will wash his hands of the NHS
The Bill does not change the Secretary of State’s duty to promote a comprehensive health service.
This is very carefully worded. It totally avoids addressing one of the main issues with Andrew Lansley’s plans – that the bill would remove the “Duty to Provide” a health service currently contained in s.3(1) and 1(2) of the 2006 Act. Why do you continue to dodge the issue Mr Lansley?
MYTH: Bureaucracy will increase significantly
We are abolishing needless bureaucracy, and our plans will save one third of all administration costs during this Parliament.
The plans may abolish some bureaucracy, but our legal advice warns that the plans have the potential to increase bureaucracy too. See the quote from pages one and two of the executive summary, below:
The procurement regime is a complicated and developing body of rules and case law which gives rise to enforceable rights in the High Court and makes available draconian remedies and penalties for breach of the Regulations. The practical and financial implications of ensuring that goods and services are procured compliantly are considerable. There is a real risk that there will be a deficit of incumbent expertise in new consortia to cope with the regulatory burden. It appears however that the government has simply failed to grapple with the frontline issues in procurement, has wholly underestimated the increasing rather than diminishing complexity in the area and has had no or perhaps little regard to the administrative and financial burdens arising from the regime.
Taken from: IN THE MATTER OF THE HEALTH AND SOCIAL CARE BILL AND THE APPLICATION OF PROCUREMENT AND COMPETITION LAW – an independent legal opinion provide by Rebecca Haynes of Monkton Chambers.
MYTH: NHS hospitals will be managed by foreign companies
Even if independent sector management is used, NHS assets will continue to be wholly owned by the NHS. And there would be rigorous checks to ensure that any such independent provider is reputable and fit for purpose.
We note that they are confirming that this is not a myth, it is a fact.
Below is a transcript (copied from Hansard) of the specific things mentioned, along with our comments (shown in red).
Mr Lansley: This Bill, for the first time, stops the Secretary of State—and, indeed, Monitor or the NHS commissioning board—from trying deliberately to increase the market share of a particular type of provider. If the previous Labour Government had put such a requirement in law when they were in office, hundreds of millions of pounds would not have been paid to independent sector treatment centres to carry out operations that were not required and never took place. If the Opposition had their way this afternoon, the safeguards that we intend to put in place would not be available.
In its response to the opportunity provided by Report stage, the Labour party is being not progressive but reactionary, while the trade unions are being misleading in the presentation of their campaign. To be specific, the trade unions and other proxy organisations such as 38 Degrees have gone to some trouble to misrepresent the Bill in order to attack it.
That’s simply not true. We have not misrepresented information, deliberately or otherwise. If the Secretary of State still believes we have then we would invite him to provide examples. We note Mr Lansley made this statement inside the House of Commons – where libel laws do not apply.