Save our NHS

After minimal amendments, and in the face of continued public opposition, Andrew Lansley’s Health and Social Care Bill has passed through its third and final reading in the House of Commons.

The public sector workers’ union, Unison, has described the bill as causing “huge damage to patient care and [wasting] vast sums of public money. The plans will turn the NHS into a business where our taxes will increasingly pay for profit-driven companies to provide our health care.”

But it is not just the trade unions that are worried about this bill becoming law. The British Medical Association doctors’ organisation has explained that they “believe that the government’s reform plans pose an unacceptably high risk to the NHS, threatening its ability to operate effectively and equitably, now and in the future” due to a continued “inappropriate and misguided reliance on ‘market forces’ to shape services.”

The changes put forward in the bill represent the most fundamental attack on the NHS in its 63-year history. The bill’s implementation would mean there would no longer be a guarantee that necessary services be provided by the NHS, but only that services will be provided by “Any Qualified Provider”.

It would move the legal duty to provide health care away from the Health Secretary to local commissioners. It would mean the complete abolition of Primary Care Trusts. It would push all NHS Trusts into Foundation Trusts, breaking up the very idea of a national health services.

Clearly this bill must continue to be opposed, along with all the cuts and privatisations within the NHS.

The bill now moves to the House of Lords, where the likes of Tory Lord Tebbit and Lib Dem Baroness Williams have suggested they will oppose it.

However, the fight for the future of the NHS has no chance in the hands of such right-wing people. The health workers’ unions must take advantage of the strength of feeling against Lansley’s plans, and unite with local communities. They must fight to defend and extend the founding principles of the NHS with trade union action at the heart of the campaign.

Michael Wrack