Action Needed To Defeat The Health Bill

Health workers marching in London in defence of the NHS last May
Health workers marching in London in defence of the NHS last May

‘the BILL remains fundamentally flawed and should be withdrawn,’ the BMA doctors’ union said yesterday.

‘Amendments amounting to little more than minor tweaking have not done enough to address the underlying problems with the Health and Social Care Bill,’ the BMA stated, ahead of its return to the House of Lords tomorrow.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, Chairman of BMA Council, said: ‘The Government has had to make so many amendments to remedy the initial flaws in the legislation and has brought in so many checks and balances that the level of complexity and bureaucracy in the new NHS will be huge.

‘It would be better to withdraw the Bill altogether and come up with a new plan – one that will actually improve care and make the NHS more efficient.

‘We are not alone in this view; the bodies representing the majority of clinical staff in the NHS are all in agreement and the decision to come out against the reforms was not one that any of us took lightly.

‘The Lords must listen to the serious concerns being voiced by the profession before it is too late.

‘They mustn’t accept minor tweaking – many of the things the Government wants, such as clinician-led commissioning, don’t require legislation and can be achieved without further structural change.’

However, BMA Council member Anna Athow stated: ‘On 24th November BMA Council called for the rapid organisation of a public campaign in opposition to the Bill, but this has not happened.’

She insisted: ‘Joint union action is needed to defeat the Health Bill and keep our hospitals open.’

Athow warned: ‘The government is relentlessly pressing ahead with its privatisation plans in the Health Bill.

‘Over Christmas another amendment was passed enabling foundation trust (FT) hospitals to use 49% of beds for private patients.

‘Three sites were piloted for abolition of GP practice boundaries.

‘The handover of Hinchingbrooke District General Hospital to Circle private company took place this week.

‘More details of how the market of providers will operate have been published.

‘The Any Qualified Provider (AQP) arrangement whereby a number of providers compete for contracts on a fixed tariff, is now said only to be an “interim measure” which will give way to competitive tendering on price.

‘Price competition, despite all the promises to the contrary, will be centre stage with the race to the bottom on standards.’

‘Millions of patients will find themselves denied care as the hospitals are dismantled with cuts. Already the waiting lists are mounting.

‘Hence, one after another healthcare unions and professional bodies have come out for withdrawal or total opposition to the health Bill; the BMA, RCN, RCM, college of physiotherapists, and Royal Colleges such as the Royal College of GPs and of Radiologists.

‘The coalition has shown that it is intent on bringing in this Bill and letting big business take over the running of the NHS. No amount of Lords amendments or verbal indignation can stop it.

‘The BMA’s public statements oppose the Bill and yet approve the health committee’s call for urgent implementation of the QIPP restructuring cuts.

‘On 24th November BMA Council called for the rapid organisation of a public campaign in opposition to the Bill, but this has not happened.

‘The situation is urgent. Industrial action is required not just to defend pensions and terms and conditions, but to preserve the whole service.

‘63 years of the best public national health service in the world cannot be given up without a fight by all means necessary.

‘The TUC has belatedly called a “Save the NHS” rally at Westminster Hall on the evening of 7th March.

‘This should be turned into a day of action for the whole trade union movement with a huge demonstration to parliament as the start of further action to defeat the bill and remove this government.’