STOP NHS SPENDING CUTS – says BMA Council member Anna Athow

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The daily picket at Chase Farm Hospital fighting to keep the hospital open is opposed to privatisation and the £20bn of cuts brought in by the Labour government
The daily picket at Chase Farm Hospital fighting to keep the hospital open is opposed to privatisation and the £20bn of cuts brought in by the Labour government

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg yesterday made it clear the coalition will press ahead with its Health and Social Care Bill, despite massive opposition from health unions and the Royal Colleges.

He was asked about leaked sections of a report by the House of Commons health committee, where MPs warn that the planned shake-up is hampering efforts to deliver £20bn of ‘efficiency savings’.

Clegg said he would consider the report and there was a ‘legitimate question’ about how the structural changes would ‘interact’ with efforts to ‘make the NHS more efficient and productive’.

However, Labour’s shadow health secretary Andy Burnham commented: ‘The NHS right now is facing the biggest financial challenge in its history, so to reorganise now is the worst possible thing because it needs stability to face that financial challenge.

‘But what in particular am I opposing? In the end this bill is a privatisation plan for the NHS and that is why there is such huge disquiet about the bill.’

The leaked report of the cross-party Health Commitee, chaired by ex-Toryhealth secretary Stephen Dorrell, says: ‘The reorganisation process continues to complicate the push for efficiency gains.

‘Although it may have facilitated savings in some cases, we heard that it more often creates disruption and distraction that hinders the ability of organisations to consider truly effective ways of reforming service delivery and releasing savings.’

BMA Council member Anna Athow yesterday warned: ‘It is being reported that a Health Select Committee of MPs is “savaging” the Health reforms in their report this week.

‘The Committee, which is chaired by the former conservative health secretary Stephen Dorrell, suggests that the restructuring in the Health Bill, could be distracting from the key issue.

‘The key issue for the Committee is moving health care out of hospitals and into the community.

‘This they say would liberate the £20bn in efficiency savings demanded by 2015, which should be used to set up cheaper care “in the community” for the elderly, where health and social care could be “integrated”.

‘They say this is urgent as elderly people are forming a greater part of the population.

‘What is reflected in this report, is not a savaging of the privatisation reforms at all, but the pressing ahead with them by the other route of accelerating the recycling cuts.

‘Dorrell and the Committee are worried about the mounting opposition to the Health Bill in the unions and colleges, with the RCN and RCM joining the call for complete opposition to the Health Bill, and with the prospect of a summit of Royal Medical Colleges later this week.

‘The Committee’s supposed “savaging” of the Bill aims to confuse the medical profession and the public as to the purpose of the £20bn “efficiency savings”.

‘Every penny of this money, saved by cutting front-line medical staff and closing NHS hospitals, is being channelled into private care, in the form of urgent care centres, clinics and diagnostics and commercial GP care in the community.

‘All Dorrell and his committee are essentially recommending is to press ahead with the privatisation, by the Blair and Brown route, and not just rely on the “in your face” Health Bill route.

‘The Labour opposition does not oppose the £20bn recycling cuts, and although calling for the Health Bill to be scrapped, put a motion to parliament on the 14th January starting with the words “This House believes there is an important role for the private sector in supporting the delivery of NHS care.”

‘The trade unions and Royal Colleges must not fall into the trap of agreeing the moving of care into “more affordable” care in the community, new models and integration of health and social care, through “efficiency savings”, which is nothing more than the blueprint for mass hospital closures and the privatisation of the NHS.’