Tuesday 11 October 2011

Three reasons to sign the 'Save the NHS' petition

I've been watching the progression through parliament of the Health and Social care bill with alarm. This is a major piece of legislation that MPs don't seem to have given proper time to and it has been waived through the Commons despite mounting protests from GPs, consultants and public demonstrations.

The Bill is now in the House of Lords and the vote is expected to take place tomorrow on whether it will approve the Bill. Below are three reasons you should sign the petition by 38 degrees.This is our last chance to halt the reforms and demand a proper consultation with open explanations of the Bill's intentions. The list below is not comprehensive so please do add more in the comments section.

1. We live in a democracy and the way this Bill has been handled is thoroughly undemocratic. I've posted on this Bill before, but in short the Bill looks to give GP commissioning powers and open up the NHS to'any willing provider' (although this has recently been amended to 'any qualified provider'). Yet these crucial changes are already being enacted across the country with Health Secretary Lansley saying that 97% of the country is now covered by GP commissioning and current Primary Care Trusts are tendering out health contracts to 'alternative providers' (i;e. private companies). This has all happened while the Bill was officially 'paused' by David Cameron. It is unacceptable that any elected Government enacts controversial reforms without the approval of an elected parliament. I would hate the Health Bill to set a dangerous precedent. There is also the glaring fact that these reforms do not have an electoral mandate as they did not figure in either Coalition parties election manifestos.

2. The Bill does not have the backing of the majority of the medical profession. They believe it poses a fundamental risk to patients' health and to the NHS. This should be a major warning sign to us all. After showing patience with the Government, engaging in two consultation processes and cooperating with the Government on suggested changes to the Bill, the community has now come out in desperation calling on the whole Bill to be suspended. If the doctors working in the NHS are against this Bill, then we must question the motivations of the Government to pursue such changes. Either they are arrogant and believe that MPs know the NHS better than people who have dedicated their lives to working in it OR these reforms are nothing to do with improving the NHS.

3. The future implications of the Bill are far from clear. Cameron has promised not to privatise the NHS but the more I think through the proposals this seems like clever word play. The White paper gives commissioning powers to GPs who are officially private employees with NHS contracts. The paper does not say whether giving them commissiong power means that they will automatically becoming employees of the state. The Bill is pushing for the NHS to operate on free market principles in which providers compete for patients, and the Government funding they bring with them. This might explain why the Bill states that all hospitals are to become 'social enterprises' (i.e free from state control) and that those hospitals that can't manage their finances properly will be allowed to fail.

Adding this up in my head, it seems that the Bill is moving us to a state insurance system in which the UK Government doles out cash to private providers yet ultimately will one day not own any hospitals or pay for any staff. This ultimate aim may well be why the Health Bill in its current form doesn't explicitly state that the Health secretary will have ultimate responsibility for the NHS - how could he if the 'NHS' just becomes a pot of money that is divided out between private companies? Would an insurance system be better for the UK? Who knows because there has been no open debate about it as the Government has been so quick to push the Bill through parliament and refused to be honest about where this legislation is leading us.

Please sign the petition. The Government claims that the NHS must reform if it is to remain able to care for an ever increasing and elderly population. That may well be true but this isn't the way to manage such reform. We elect our Government and in turn they should be honest about the problems the NHS faces and the potential ways to manage healthcare in the future. Pushing through undemocratic reforms, which lacks the support of the medical profession and the understanding of the public treats the NHS and the voting public with contempt.