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New bill seeks to reverse Tory health reforms

A new bill which proposes to halt the privatisation of the NHS will be scrutinised by MPs in 2015 having winged its way through two readings in the House of Commons.

Labour MP Clive Efford’s private members bill, which aims to reverse elements of the 2012 Health and Social Care Act, has been committed to a Public Bill Committee after being voted for by 241 MPs with only 18 against, during its second reading debate in the House of Commons.

The bill proposes to abolish the Section 75 rules that embed competitive tendering into the NHS commissioning process; scrap the competition framework; end any role for the Competition and Markets Authority in the NHS and change Monitor’s role as an economic regulator enforcing competition in the NHS.

“The NHS as we know it today will disappear if we continue to allow services to be contracted out to private companies,” says Mr Efford. “The government’s own figures for 2013-14 show that more than £10bn was spent on the purchase of healthcare from non-NHS bodies. If this is allowed to continue it will seriously undermine the capacity of the NHS to provide services in the future, leaving us at the mercy of the private sector.

“This bill will halt the rush to privatisation and put patients rather than profits at the heart of our NHS.”

Efford also argues that his bill will give Parliament sovereignty over the NHS and will protect it from the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) which threatens to allow private companies to use the courts to force the wholesale privatisation of the NHS.

The BMA has given the bill qualified support. It says it backs measures designed to increase ministerial accountability but wants assurances that the proposed legislation will not result in further restructuring of the health service or come at the expense of reduced operational independence for NHS bodies. It also warns that aspects of the bill relating to competition and procurement are too loosely worded, and has called for statutory checks and balances to be included to act as additional safeguards.

The BMA praises the bill for including specific provisions relating to the TTIP limiting the potential impact of the treaty on the health service.

“We believe that the bill is a step in the right direction to address concerns about the current lack of ministerial accountability and responsibility for the NHS in England, as well as ongoing concerns about the over-emphasis on market forces and use of competition in the NHS. However, this bill gives potentially wide powers to the health secretary in a number of areas. We are clear that care must be taken to ensure that the legislation does not risk introducing even more political interference in the day-to-day running of the NHS,” says the association.

Other groups of doctors oppose the Bill. In a letter to the Daily Telegraph, Dr Michael Dixon, a GP and chair of the NHS Alliance, and 11 other doctors describe the bill’s attempts to overturn the Tory health reforms as “deeply concerning, misguided and disruptive”.

They argue that those calling for the changes to be reversed are making an ill-informed attack on doctors who work for clinical commissioning groups (CCGs). “We believe this Bill would be a backwards step for patient care, reorganising the NHS in a top-down way at a time when it needs to be looking ahead to the huge challenges of the future,” they say.

Jeremy Hunt said: “This Bill is another example of Labour putting politics before patients, seeking to scare people who rely on the NHS with phony privatisation claims.”

Meanwhile Unite has compiled a dossier of 71 coalition MPs who voted for the 2012 Health and Social Care Act and to “sell off our beloved NHS”, have links to private healthcare interests.

The claims include:

– While preparing the white paper that led to the act in 2009, the then shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley received £21,000 to his personal office from John Nash, then chairman of the private healthcare company Care UK. In 2013, 96 per cent of Care UK’s business, amounting to over £400 million, came from the NHS.

– Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt received two donations to his constituency office from hedge fund boss Andrew Law. Law has donated over £600,000 to the Tories and his firm holds multi-million healthcare investments.

– Seven Tory MPs have received funding from Robin Crispin Odey, whose hedge fund Odey Asset Management part-owns health giant Circle. Aside from running the first fully privatised NHS hospital at Hinchingbrooke, Circle have won a £120m contract to run musculoskeletal services in Bedfordshire.

– Stratford-on-Avon MP Nadhim Zahawi is the non-executive director of recruitment company SThree, which has gained at least £2.6m from the new CCGs created by the health act.

Len McCluskey, Unite general secretary said: “The sheer scale of this conflict of interest is staggering. From lobbying links to investments and in some cases direct donations, scores of coalition MPs who voted for the NHS sell-off had links to the very private healthcare companies which stood to profit.”

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One Response to “New bill seeks to reverse Tory health reforms”

  1. Malcolm Morrison says:

    If Unite’s ‘evidence’ is so strong, surely it should present it to the Parliamentary Commissioner, who deals with such matters (of ubdecalred ‘interests’) – or even to the Fraud Squad if they think it amounts to fraud?

    But certainly, it would appear that ‘there are questions to be answered’!

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