Concern for health care

Jeanne Warren describes Oxford Friends’ concerns about the Health and Social Care Bill

David Cameron is striking at the very heart of the public service ethos, starting with the Health and Social Care Bill.

Some Friends in Oxford, having recently gained a fuller understanding of the provisions of that bill, have written to Evan Harris who was, until his narrow defeat at the last election, Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon. He is a medical doctor and in the past has been health spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats. This is a slightly shortened version of what we said:

‘We are a group of lay people, mostly Quakers, who were devastated to learn the contents of the NHS bill currently going through the Commons.

‘The proposals to open up all clinical services to “any willing provider” under EU competition laws will completely destabilize the existing NHS, without improving it. Money will go away from NHS services, some of which will close.

‘There appears to be no overall strategic authority to allocate provision of services, so variation of provision will increase not diminish.

‘Competition on price will be allowed, which is generally considered to drive down quality, since price can be measured more easily than quality.

‘There is less transparency and more secrecy in the proposed arrangements than formerly.

‘The bill states a target of £20 billion savings by 2014. GPs will be charged with rationing, and “patient choice” will be a sham. The new regulator Monitor does not ensure provision, it ensures competition. Patients want provision.

‘For all these reasons and more, we conclude that the bill is not in need of amendment, it is in need of rejection. We hope that you have come to the same conclusion.

‘The bill flatly contradicts both Conservative and coalition promises of no top-down reorganisation of the NHS. There is therefore no reason in conscience for MPs of either party to support it, but it seems to us that the most likely opponents of the bill within the coalition are Liberal Democrats. In fact, support for the bill will be seen by some Liberal Democrat supporters as a betrayal of the Liberal Democrat cause.

If you share this view, we would urge you to do what you can to persuade members of your party to take action to defeat this bill.

‘Now that we are finding out what is in the bill, we are appalled at the lack of democratic accountability being displayed by our politicians. We hope that you can convey to your party the depth of feeling that is building on this issue. No one voted for this. No one who knows about health care supports it. Not only will it be a costly experiment with little benefit, it uproots structures which cannot be reinstated without the genius of a second Nye Bevan. The loss will be permanent. That is the tragedy.’

We think that other Friends may wish to take action to let politicians know their views before the bill is voted on, probably next month.


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