Hospital Dr News

Health Bill progress in Lords despite opposition

Doctors’ representatives have re-iterated their opposition to the Health and Social Care Bill despite its progress through the House of Lords.

The government’s NHS reforms cleared the first of two major hurdles today as the House of Lords voted to give the Health and Social Care Bill a second reading.

Peers voted by 354 to 220 to reject a move by Labour former GP Lord Rea to block the legislation – giving the government a 134 majority. Another move to refer parts of it to a special select committee was also defeated.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of BMA council, said: “It remains the BMA position that the Health and Social Care Bill should be withdrawn, or if not that it should be substantially amended, and we will continue to raise our concerns at every available opportunity as the Bill progresses through the House of Lords.”

He said that there were many areas of concern for doctors including the need for assurance that increasing patients’ choice of provider for specific elements of their care won’t be given priority over the development of integrated services and fair access. The union also wants to see an explicit provision that the health secretary will retain ultimate responsibility for the provision of comprehensive health services.

Earlier in the week, the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, which is made up of representatives from all medical royal colleges and faculties, showed united opposition to aspects of the changes. It is particularly concerned that patient care could suffer if the reforms designed to promote competition aren’t checked.

Surveys by both the royal colleges of psychiatrists and GPs suggested that frontline doctors are largely opposed to the reforms.

This followed an open letter from over 400 public health doctors and specialists to House of Lords members saying: “The Health and Social Care Bill will erode the NHS’s ethical and cooperative foundations” and “will not deliver efficiency, quality, fairness or choice.”

The Bill will now be scrutinised line-by-line by peers before passing to report stage and then a third reading in the House of Lords.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “The vote today moves us one step closer to delivering a world-class health service that puts patients at its heart and hands more power to health professionals.

“We now look forward to working with the Lords to scrutinise the Bill during committee stage to improve our plans further.”

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