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CG Joins Rally Against NHS Privatisation

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On the evening before the House of Commons began the third reading of the controversial Health and Social Care Bill, we turned out on Cornmarket Street to urge our MPs to prevent it from going into law. The rally was followed by a meeting of Keep Our NHS Public in the Town Hall. Oxford East MP Andrew Smith has already responded by saying "I will vote for the amendments my Labour colleagues have tabled which would stop the changes, and if these fall I will vote against the Bill."

 

There are many elements of the Bill that we find unacceptable, but the three main problems are


1. Plans to privatise large parts of the NHS

As the Observer revealed on Sunday, there are already private companies poised to take over £500M worth of NHS contracts should the Bill get passed. Recent catastrophes with private care homes (which used to be run by local government) have shown how patients lives can be put at risk where companies are run for profit.


2. Lack of patient involvement and accountability

Following the 'listening exercise' earlier this year, representation on GP Consortia has been widened to include other doctors and even other clinicians, but not patients and members of the public. We will still be 'involved' through poorly funded local HealthWatch groups. As the government itself makes clear, the law will "not create a duty on any of these persons [GP Consortia] directly to act on any views, recommendations or reports from local HealthWatch".

 

3. Removal of the duty on the Secretary of State to provide an NHS

Since the foundation of the NHS, there has been a duty to provide a service free at the point of contact that meets people's needs. The Bill proposes to replace this with a much more general responsibility to get the best value out of any money spent - whether or not it's adequate to meet needs. According to independent legal advice paid for by campaign group 38 degrees, "The bill will remove the duty of the Secretary of State to provide or secure the provision of health services which has been a common and critical feature of all previous NHS legislation since 1946. This is the means by which Parliament ensures the NHS delivers what the public want and expect. Furthermore, a “hands-off clause” will severely curtail the Secretary of State's ability to influence the delivery of NHS care to ensure everyone receives the best healthcare possible."

 

Andrew Lansley calls it 'ridiculius scaremongering', but the evidence is in; if this bill is enacted, it will be the end of free universal healthcare in this country, and the beginning of a two-tier system where rich investors get richer while disabled people and those with long-term conditions lose out.

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