I am delighted the Private Members Bill by my Parliamentary colleague Clive Efford MP to repeal key parts of the government’s 2012 Health and Social Care Act passed it’s Second Reading by an overwhelming majority.
As a member of the Health Select Committee, and a campaigner to save our NHS, I wanted to make a contribution during the debate but was not called by the Speaker.
These are the comments I wanted to make as part of the debate
National Health Service (Amended Duties and Powers) Bill: Second Reading
This was the vison set out prior to the 1945 General Election by Nye Bevan. Within three years of making this statement, and despite post-war austerity as well as opposition from the BMA and the Conservative Party, the NHS was born.
The respect and appreciation for the NHS quickly grew to such an extent the Conservative Party had no option but to promise to keep it in 1950, by the time of the last election many could have been forgiven in thinking the Conservatives had been fully reformed with David Cameron summing up his priorities in three letters – N…H…S.
However, this was nothing more than a smokescreen, as the Conservative Party could not go into an election stating their true intentions for the NHS.
The promise of no more top down reorganisations has led to the biggest overhaul of the NHS in its entire history, forced through without any democratic mandate and against overwhelming opposition from the public and health professionals.
In a time of Government imposed austerity, they have squandered £3 billion through NHS reforms, resources which should have been used on frontline services and helping to face the financial challenges presented by demographic changes.
The Government’s solution has been to put the NHS on to the path of privatisation, competition and fragmentation.
A policy which has been described as their biggest mistake by one senior Conservative, and has been rejected by the Lib Dem members calling for the Bill to be repealed during this year’s conference.
Today, my right hon friend for Eltham (Clive Efford) has given the Coalition a choice.
A final chance to correct your mistakes – to safeguard and restore the NHS, or to go into the next election defending this failed policy.
I congratulate my right hon friend for Eltham (Clive Efford) for bringing forward this important Bill that would restore real democratic accountability to our health service, scrap the competition framework, and ensure patients and not profits are the priority in the NHS.
The Health and Social Care Act promised to empower patients like never before, giving them a say over local health services. However, these promises never materialised, and it is my experience that patients are being side-lined by commissioners’.
In my constituency, patient groups are fighting against proposed changes to walk-in and GP services, as well as fighting to safeguard the future of community health services such as Healthworks in Easington.
I hold the Secretary of State for Health, and certainly his predecessor who forced through the health reforms, responsible and I believe they have a duty to respond to patients concerns.
However, the historic political link of accountability for the NHS was broken through the health reforms, the Health Secretary can now point to a plethora of organisations for failures in the NHS.
I can see why removing the Secretary of State’s accountability is desirable, because he has a lot to answer for:
A perpetual A&E crisis, patients waiting longer not only in A&E but for GP appointments, for cancer treatment, operation waiting lists are rising, there is a crisis in our ambulance service, none more so than in the North East, with patients left for hours waiting for assistance, which has also led to the growing use of private ambulances at a cost of nearly £2.9 million last year (2013/14).
The Government’s only defence time and time again is to say they have increased funding to the NHS, but where is this money being spent.
Sir David Nicholson, Chief Executive of the NHS, summed up the situation last year:
“You’ve got competition lawyers all over the place, causing enormous difficulty…We are getting, in my view, bogged down in a morass of competition law which is causing . . . significant cost in the system”.
There are the millions spent by commissioners putting services out to tender, FoI requests have shown NHS hospitals are spending in excess of £60 million per year on tendering exercises and assessing bids.
NHS hospitals are also spending in excess of £20 million per year navigating the Government’s competition laws, and Monitor’s Annual Plan shows that organisations are spent £4.9m on monitoring and enforcing competition in 2013/14 with costs expected to increase to £6.3 m by 2014/15.
Once a contract is awarded – private healthcare companies then seek to make at least an eight per cent profit from NHS contracts.
Money that could be spent on patient care is being squandered on unnecessary bureaucracy, management consultants, tendering, procurement, debt interest and dividends.
The Government’s Health Reforms should have come as no surprise, the Health Secretary has been clear what his goals are.
In a book he co-authored in 2005, the Health Secretary states:
“Our ambition should be to break down the barriers between private and public provision, in effect denationalising the provision of health care in Britain”
He goes on to describe the NHS as a “broken machine” and that “We should fund patients, either through the tax system or by way of universal insurance, to purchase health care from the provider of their choice.” an insurance based scheme, a step short from a top up two tier health service.
The Health and Social Care Act, and the subsequent outsourcing of services has seen the Government remain true to the belief of “denationalisation”.
On Wednesday, the Prime Minister said to my hon friend for Eltham “At least we now know who is paying for the hon. Gentleman’s Bill”, in yet another feeble attack on Trade Unions.
I am proud to stand here today in solidarity representing the millions of working men and women in the trade unions and the public who use the NHS and are opposed to the privatisation.
They have the right to ask the same question.
Who does the Prime Minister represent?
Who paid for his Health and Social Care Act?
Is it the private healthcare companies that are pouring money into the Tory Party, who have coincidently won NHS contracts worth £1.5 billion over the last two years?
The Health and Social Care Act is living on borrowed time.
The Labour Party created the NHS, we saved the NHS in 1997 after 18 years of Tory neglect, and we will once again build and safeguard the NHS from the policies of fragmentation and privatisation supported by the parties opposite.
Only a Labour government will stop NHS privatisation by repealing his Health and Social Care Act.