The House of Lords discusses and votes on the Health and Social Care / Destroy the NHS Bill today and tomorrow. There are amendments proposed to delay or abandon the bill.
Many news reports reaffirm opposition from various parties.
- Conservative election poster 2010
A few recent news articles about the UK’s Conservative and Liberal-Democrat (Conservative) coalition government – the ConDem’s – brutal attack on the National Health Service.
An alliance of Peers began their attempt to block the NHS Bill as the government’s controversial health reforms were debated in the House of Lords.
Conservative Lord Howe kicked off the debate after distributing a last-minute letter to Lords warning against two peers’ attempts to have the Bill send to committee on Tuesday morning. He outlined concessions the government were willing to make, saying that while it was “unequivocally clear” that health secretary Andrew Lansley still had ultimate responsibility for the NHS under the legislation, they were willing to make this clearer.
But Howe’s claim that Labour had “wholeheartedly embraced” many principles of the Bill and it was “the inverse of a top down reorganisation” was shot down by Labour peer Baroness Thornton.
She said the government had shown “breathtaking disregard for the democratic process”. And she reminded Liberal Democrat peers of their reputation for protecting the NHS, warning them not to put this in “jeopardy”
Thornton added that the government had “no mandate, no evidence and no support” and warned the Bill would turn getting NHS care into “shopping”.
Labour peer and former GP Lord Rea, who has attempted to table an amendment halting the Bill altogether, accused the government of “deliberate concealment” of their intentions for the NHS prior to being elected.
Over 100 Lords are scheduled to speak at the debate, including former Labour health minister Lord Darzai and Lib Dem peer Baroness Williams, with the House set to sit until 11:30 this evening.
Medical organisations have united in opposition to the changes, which will dissolve primary care trusts (PCTs).
Opponents of the reforms argue they will allow private patients to leapfrog to the front of queues for surgery, open the NHS up to competition and create a new and complex layer of quangos to replaces PCTs.
The Chairman of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, Professor Sir Neil Douglas, has expressed serious concern about the NHS reforms, saying the Bill could “damage patient care”.
And the BMA has written to every peer in the Lords outlining their concerns about the Bill.
London university academics have also written to medical journal the Lancet saying are the reforms “fundamentally flawed”.
Just 12% of psychiatrists believe the government’s NHS reforms will lead to better patient care, as legislation to enact them enters the House of Lords today.
A Royal College of Psychiatrists survey, answered by 1,890 doctors, found that 84% believed that the college should call for the Health and Social Care Bill to be withdrawn.
The Bill would open up NHS-funded care to “any qualified provider” and place commissioning responsibility in new clinical commissioning groups, headed by GPs.
Some 86% of psychiatrists thought the reforms would lead to greater fragmentation of care, while 85% disagreed that it would improve integration between health and social care or deliver cost-effective care.
“Our findings are extremely worrying,” said Sue Bailey, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
“Our mental health service users are a particularly vulnerable group, who already experience considerable health inequalities. History tells us that in times of economic restraint, when combined with major reform, those with mental health problems fare the worst.”
New shadow health secretary Andy Burnham has also called for the government to scrap the Bill while it is expected to be significantly amended in the House of Lords.
A prominent NHS leader has warned the government’s reforms are unworkable in their current form.
NHS Confederation chief executive Mike Farrar says the NHS risks being “paralysed by fuzzy structures and decision-making processes,” which would prevent it from dealing with financial pressures and improving quality of care.
The warning comes as the Health and Social Care Bill is being read by Peers in the House of Lords today.
Farrar says his organisation supported ‘some of the principles in the Bill,’ but added that at a practical level it has few enthusiasts.
He said: “[Peers] still need to sort out some of the fundamentals – the accountability of all the key players in the system must be crystal clear, not least of the Secretary of State.
“And we also need peers to get beneath the surface of the legislation and give us the practical tools we need to tackle the major problems we face,” he said.
He added that the health service would have “few powers to take charge of its destiny” adding: “It is still unclear that the NHS reforms do what has been said on the tin.”
Around three quarters of GPs agree with calls for the Health Bill to be withdrawn, a RCGP survey shows.
It comes as the House of Lords begins debating the NHS reform plans today before voting on whether the Health Bill should be withdrawn on Wednesday.
The largest RCGP survey yet of GP opinion on the reforms shows just 4% of respondents think the reorganisation would result in better care for patients.
The poll of 1,900 GPs also indicates that support for involvement in clinically-led commissioning has dwindled over the past three months.
A previous RCGP survey in July showed 62% of GPs did not want to be involved on the board of a clinical commissioning group (CCG), but the latest survey now shows that figure to be 68%.
It also shows around seven in 10 GPs feel they will not have sufficient time to be involved in CCG activities, while two thirds say they don’t think they have been sufficiently resourced to carry out the role.
RCGP chairwoman Dr Clare Gerada said the results of the survey are ‘impossible to ignore’.
She said: ‘The survey confirms what we have been saying all along; the college has made its support for placing GPs at the heart of the health service clear, but …the majority of respondents still have concerns about commercialisation, increased bureaucracy and standards of patient care that the government has not allayed.
‘With the Bill making its way through the House of Lords, it is important that peers have as much information as possible so that they can ask the relevant questions, and make informed choices about what happens next.’