Fighting the English Health and Social Care Bill

03/10/2011 § Leave a comment

I have just written a letter to 16 members of the House of Lords, asking them to intervene and make sure the Health & Social Care Bill is thoroughly examined and if possible rejected to prevent it passing into law as it is.

The letter was designed to support the efforts of those among the Lords already working actively to subject the Health & Social Care bill to the in-depth scrutiny it did not receive in the House of Commons via a special committee, and to urge them at the minimum to find ways to substantively amend it so as to reduce the damage from its worst clauses. Even more, what I really wanted was to convince the House of Lords to reject it altogether. The bill is fatally flawed. If it is passed, even with amendments, it will turn the “NHS” in England into a mere logo.

I believe one of the reasons why the Bill did not fall in the Commons was that the opposition did not attempt to defeat it per se, but rather put forward many amendments without consensus or unity among all those who were seeking to oppose/amend the bill. Cross-party opposition was totally absent on a subject that cries out to be treated in a cross-party manner because it affects us all (though not equally). Moreover, the time for debate was so limited that it made a farce of any serious examination of the bill itself, let alone the many amendments that had been tabled.

Many people who oppose the bill called on both Labour and the LibDems in the Commons to hold a consultation with expert key parties – in the NHS, in health professional associations, civil society health advocacy groups and patients’ groups. We wanted them to draft an alternative bill for which to campaign, as well as table a united set of amendments to this bill. This did not happen, to our great disappointment.

Many people are therefore looking to the Lords to play the role it is justly famous for – stepping into the breach in a crisis and putting things right.

Here are some compelling arguments against the Bill:

My blog, 17 reasons to oppose the bill, which outlines all the forms of privatisation envisaged in the bill, none of which have been ameliorated or cancelled out by amendments in the Commons, why they are a mistake and what to support instead.

 “It’s already happened” by James Meek writing in the London Review of Books is the best description I have seen to date of the negative consequences for hospitals of privatisation of the NHS. It uses the example of what has happened over recent years to the Wrightington Hospital near Wigan and its orthopaedic centre of excellence for hip and other joint replacements.

“An unsuitable case for treatment” by Hackney GP Jonathon Tomlinson describes the serious problems that privatisation and “choice” (highly restricted in reality) have already placed in the way of his treating one of his most vulnerable and ill patients and why he believes he can no longer do what is best for his patient in the face of NHS changes.

A diary by Andrew O’Hagan, also from the London Review of Books, is about Nye Bevan and the history of the NHS, how much the proposed reforms go against the ethos of Bevan to ensure universal access to health care, and a report of his conversations with a GP at the Kentish Town Health Centre in London, who explains what a disaster it will be if GPs have to hold the purse strings locally.

These contain incredibly strong arguments and examples for any debate, and the basis for alternatives to the clauses in this Bill, and to the Bill as a whole.

There are two campaigns being run to try and influence the House of Lords: one by 38 Degrees and the other by the TUC.

Join the fight against the privatisation of the NHS!

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