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A few recent news articles concerning the UK’s Conservative and Liberal-Democrat coalition government – the ConDem’s – brutal attack on the National Health Service.

NHS reforms face overhaul after Liberal Democrats’ rebellion | Politics | The Guardian

The government’s plans for a health service shakeup face a radical overhaul after the Liberal Democrat leadership was forced to bow to the strength of a grassroots rebellion fuelled by fear of privatisation and an undue emphasis on competition.

The Lib Dems voted almost unanimously at the party’s spring conference in Sheffield to give councillors a central role in GP commissioning and in scrutinising foundation trusts. They called for a ban on all cherry-picking by private companies offering treatment services.

David Cameron will hold talks this week with his deputy, Nick Clegg, to decide whether the rebellion provides an opportunity to make changes to a health and social care bill that has become increasingly unpopular. Cameron acknowledges the government has not got his message across on health.

Patient voice may be lost in NHS reforms | GP online

Reform backs DoH plans to reorganise the NHS. But it says the proposals neither provide accountability to patients nor dismantle central regulation.

Reorganising the commissioning structure would leave responsibility divided between consortia, local authorities and the NHS Commissioning Board, according to Reform’s report.

‘The Health Bill gives the NHS Commissioning Board significant powers over consortia,’ the report says. ‘But it also gives the secretary of state power to direct the Board not only in what it does but in how it does it. Consequently accountability runs to the centre.’

Anti-cuts campaigners plan ‘carnival of civil disobedience’ | Society | The Guardian

Anti-cuts campaigners are planning a wave of sit-ins, occupations and “people’s assemblies” to coincide with this month’s TUC demonstration, in a “carnival of civil disobedience” designed to highlight opposition to the government’s programme of cuts.

Student activists, tax avoidance campaigners and anti-capitalist groups say they plan to occupy some of the capital’s “great buildings”, close down scores of high street stores and stage a 24-hour occupation of Hyde Park.

“This is going to be a really important day,” said Anna Walker of the campaign group UK Uncut. “We had the student protests and we have seen the growth of UK Uncut, but this is the first time we are going to have people from all over the UK together whose lives are being turned upside down by these cuts. It is going to be the start of something powerful.”

Nick Clegg: We will not privatise NHS – mirror.co.uk

Just hours after Party activists voted against the reforms, the Deputy Prime Minister insisted the Coalition was not trying to privatise the health service.

The plans will let market forces run riot in the NHS and senior Lib Dems fear it will inflict more damage on them than the broken tuition fees promise.

But, speaking at the spring conference yesterday, Mr Clegg said: “What I need you to know is all of us in Government are listening and that we take those concerns seriously.”

David Cameron and Nick Clegg two stupid – mirror.co.uk

DAVID Cameron and Nick Clegg ­backslap and grin for the cameras but their silly little act fools nobody.

This incompetent coalition is split down the middle over NHS reforms which will leave the sick at the mercy of profit-hungry firms.

The Prime Minister and his deputy deserve to pay a high political price if they dismantle our most cherished institution, the NHS.

Increasingly Mr Clegg’s divorced from his party, and Mr Cameron from the country.

BBC News – NHS plans will not change significantly: Downing Street

Downing Street has ruled out “significant changes” to government NHS reforms following their rejection by Liberal Democrat members.

Delegates at the party’s spring conference voted at the weekend not to support a “damaging and unjustified” shake-up of health services in England.

Plans include axing primary care trusts and strategic health authorities.

No 10 said it would not make large changes to the proposals, but added they could be amended by Parliament.

Motion carried with amendments: Updating the NHS: Personal and Local | The Liberal Democrats: News Detail

Spring Conference 2011: Lines 6-15 deleted, Amendments 1 and 2 carried, Main motion carried as amended.

Twelve conference representatives
Mover: Paul Burstow
Summation: Cllr Richard Kemp

Conference believes that the NHS is an integral part of a liberal society, reflecting the social solidarity of shared access to collective healthcare, and a shared responsibility to use resources effectively to deliver better health.

Conference welcomes our Coalition Government’s commitment to the founding principles of the NHS: available to all, free at the point of use, and based on need, not the ability to pay.

Conference welcomes much of the vision for the NHS set out in the Government’s White Paper, Equity and Excellence: Liberating the NHS which commits the Government to an NHS that:

i) Is genuinely centred on patients and carers.

ii) Achieves quality and outcomes that are among the best in the world.

iii) Refuses to tolerate unsafe and substandard care.

iv) Puts clinicians in the driving seat and sets hospitals and providers free to innovate, with stronger incentives to adopt best practice.

v) Is more transparent, with clearer accountabilities for quality and results.

vi) Is more efficient and dynamic, with a radically smaller national, regional and local bureaucracy.

vii) Gives citizens a greater say in how the NHS is run.

Conference particularly welcomes the proposals to introduce real democratic legitimacy and local accountability into the NHS for the first time in almost forty years by:

a) Extending the powers of local authorities to enable effective scrutiny of any provider of any taxpayer funded health services.

b) Giving local authorities the role of leading on improving the strategic coordination of commissioning across the NHS, social care, and related childrens’ and public health services through councillor led Health and Wellbeing Boards.

c) Creating Health Watch to act as a local consumer champion for patients and to ensure that local patients are heard on a national level.

d) Returning public health duty to local government by ensuring that the majority of public health services will now be commissioned by Local Authorities from their ring-fenced public health budget.

Conference recognises however that all of the above policies and aspirations can be achieved without adopting the damaging and unjustified market-based approach that is proposed.

Conference regrets that some of the proposed reforms have never been Liberal Democrat policy, did not feature in our manifesto or in the agreed Coalition Programme, which instead called for an end to large-scale top-down reorganisations.

Conference therefore calls on Liberal Democrats in Parliament to amend the Health Bill to provide for:

I) More democratically accountable commissioning.

II) A much greater degree of co-terminously between local authorities and commissioning areas.

III) No decision about the spending of NHS funds to be made in private and without proper consultation, as can take place by the proposed GP consortia.

IV) The complete ruling out of any competition based on price to prevent loss-leading corporate providers under-cutting NHS tariffs, and to ensure that healthcare providers ‘compete’ on quality of care.

V) New private providers to be allowed only where there is no risk of ‘cherry picking’ which would destabilise or undermine the existing NHS service relied upon for emergencies and complex cases, and where the needs of equity, research and training are met.

VI) NHS commissioning being retained as a public function in full compliance with the Human Rights Act and Freedom of Information laws, using the skills and experience of existing NHS staff rather than the sub-contracting of commissioning to private companies.

VII) The continued separation of the commissioning and provision of services to prevent conflicts of interests.

VIII) An NHS, responsive to patients’ needs, based on co-operation rather than competition, and which promotes quality and equity not the market.

Conferences calls:

1. On the Government to uphold the NHS Constitution and publish an audit of how well organisations are living by its letter and spirit.

2. On Liberal Democrats in local government to establish local Health and Wellbeing Boards and make progress developing the new collaborative ways of working necessary to provide joined up services that are personalised and local.

3. The government to seize fully the opportunity to reverse the scandalous lack of accountability of publicly-funded local health services which has grown up under decades of Conservative and Labour governments, by:

a) Ensuring full scrutiny, including the power to require attendance, by elected local authorities of all organisations in the local health economy funded by public money, including Foundation Trusts and any external support for commissioning consortia; ensuring that all such organisations are subject to Freedom of Information requirements.

b) Ensuring Health and Wellbeing Boards (HWBs) are a strong voice for accountable local people in setting the strategic direction for and co-ordinating provision of health and social care services locally by containing substantial representation from elected local councillors; and by requiring GP Commissioning Boards to construct their Annual Plans in conjunction with the HWBs; to monitor their implementation at meetings with the HWBs not less than once each quarter; and to review the implementation of the Annual Plan with the HWBs at the end of the year prior to the construction of the Annual Plan for the forthcoming year.

c) Ensuring commissioning of health services has some degree of accountability by requiring about half of the members of the board of commissioning consortia, alongside GPs, to be local councillors appointed as non-executive directors.

d) Offering additional freedoms only to Foundation Trusts that successfully engage substantial proportions of their local populations as active members.

Applicability: England.

Stinging rebuke over NHS plans (From Your Local Guardian)

Nick Clegg has suffered a stinging rebuke from his own party over radical coalition plans to shake up the NHS.

Liberal Democrat activists overwhelmingly passed a motion criticising proposals to put GPs in control of commissioning services.

Speaker after speaker called for a rethink during a debate at the party’s spring conference in Sheffield.

New Statesman – The coalition is now split over national health policy

Controversial proposals to reform the National Health Service in England has become the first public split on policy between the two coalition parties, after the Liberal Democrat spring conference voted overwhelmingly in favour of an extensive rewrite of the bill.

While there have been numerous backbench revolts on certain issues, such as tuition fees, and areas in which the parties have codified their disagreement, such as voting reform, this is the first public division on policy.

Nick Clegg, who said yesterday he was “very relaxed and very positive” about the NHS debate, narrowly averted defeat by accepting two “rebel” amendments when it became obvious that they were going to pass.

Liberal Democrats put pressure on Nick Clegg over NHS | Metro.co.uk

The issue of the health service was expected to expose divisions within the coalition when it was debated in Sheffield on Saturday – and that proved to be the case.

Well respected party figures, including Baroness Williams and Andrew George MP, spoke out against the government’s plan for a radical reform of GP services in the NHS.

Ex-MP Evan Harris put forward a motion that called for a change to the ‘damaging and unjustified market-based approach’ to reform of the NHS that has ‘never been Liberal Democrat policy, did not feature in our manifesto or in the agreed Coalition Programme, which instead called for an end to large-scale top-down reorganisations’.

Shirley Williams urges Lib Dems to fight Andrew Lansley’s NHS plan | Politics | The Observer

There are not many 80-year-old politicians who can make their parties stop, think and change direction. But Shirley Williams is one of them. The former education secretary and co-founder of the SDP walks with a bit of a stoop these days. But intellectually she remains a towering figure at the height of her powers. In terms of influence within the Liberal Democrat party, few can match her. Among older friends and colleagues, she is known simply as “Shirl the Pearl” – a term that carries with it affection and also huge respect.

When we meet in a Sheffield hotel, during the Lib Dem spring conference, she is carrying a large bundle of papers, including letters from doctors and nurses who share her concerns about the coalition’s plans to reform the NHS.

She picks out one. “It is from a doctor. He says: ‘I didn’t think I was voting Liberal Democrat to see the Liberal Democrats supporting Conservative policies. At least you must maintain your identity.’ I think that is a perfectly fair point.”

Clegg tries to soothe Lib Dems / Britain / Home – Morning Star

Liberal Democrats have overwhelmingly voted to oppose NHS reforms in Sheffield after 5,000 activists rallied on the city’s streets in protest against the privitisation of the health service.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg was facing the music today after Lib Dems voted to opppose controversial NHS reforms at their party conference at Sheffield City Hall on Saturday.

Thousands of angry protesters stormed the streets to hit back against the cuts that are being meted out in the coalition’s name, including increased tuition fees and the controversial Health and Social Reform Bill that demonstrators argue will privatise the NHS.

No market for Britain’s NHS | Kailash Chand | Comment is free | The Guardian

It is 19 years since the British Medical Association last thought it necessary to call a crisis meeting of its members in response to upheaval in the NHS. On that occasion, 26 March 1992, representatives of doctors across Britain debated John Major’s attempt to reform the NHS by separating the purchasers of healthcare from the providers. On Tuesday a special representative meeting will take place again – this time to consider its position in relation to Andrew Lansley’s plan to take the internal market of that era several stages further and prepare the NHS for privatisation.

Lansley has a problem; few of the BMA’s 140,000 members believe his plans are sensible or will deliver what he claims. The British Medical Journal has dubbed the reforms “Dr Lansley’s Monster”, the National Audit Office has warned that the quality of service offered by GPs could drop, and the King’s Fund has pointed out the government runs the risk of replacing the bureaucracy of performance management with the red tape of economic regulation.

This mother of all reforms plans to further extend the healthcare market within the health service in England, fronted by GPs, herded en masse into commissioning consortiums. They will be given £80bn of public funds to buy healthcare from a system of competing providers under an “any willing provider” policy that will see private hospitals able to provide NHS care.

Whitechapel protest against London health cuts

More than 500 people demonstrated in East London last week against proposed cuts to the National Health Service (NHS). Protesters, including many medical staff, marched from the Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel, to St Bartholomew’s Hospital. The march met with warm support from local residents and traders in the residential areas of Whitechapel.

As well as the London Chest Hospital, the two hospitals are part of the Barts and the London NHS Trust. Along with the chest specialism, the Trust is also a London-wide specialist centre for head trauma treatment. The Trust last month announced plans to cut its workforce by 10 percent. It said it was making the cuts in order to meet efficiency savings of £20 billion demanded by the government by 2014-15.

The Trust has claimed that these cuts will mainly be to corporate and back-office posts, but they will directly affect patient care. Of the 630 proposed job losses, 250 are nursing posts. Consultants’ hours will be cut, and 100 in-patient beds lost. Unions point out that cutting administrative staff also results in an increased workload for nurses.

The protests were against cuts across the NHS as a whole. As the march passed through the financial districts of the City of London, largely empty at that time of night, anger was directed at the premises of Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), Deutsche Bank, and Vodafone. Under a deal with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, Vodafone was able to avoid some £6 billion in taxes. RBS is 84 percent publicly-owned, following a £45 billion government bailout. On the same day that the protest took place it was revealed that ten senior executives at RBS are to share a bonus of up to £28 million.

Patient voice may be lost in NHS reforms | GP online

Reform backs DoH plans to reorganise the NHS. But it says the proposals neither provide accountability to patients nor dismantle central regulation.

Reorganising the commissioning structure would leave responsibility divided between consortia, local authorities and the NHS Commissioning Board, according to Reform’s report.

‘The Health Bill gives the NHS Commissioning Board significant powers over consortia,’ the report says. ‘But it also gives the secretary of state power to direct the Board not only in what it does but in how it does it. Consequently accountability runs to the centre.’

Reform is also concerned about how well NHS workers understand the changes.

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