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Healey: Health Bill will ‘unleash a beast’


27 May 2011

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The health bill will "unleash a beast which can't be controlled or put back in its cage", according to shadow health minister John Healey.


The health bill will "unleash a beast which can't be controlled or put back in its cage", according to shadow health minister John Healey.

The health bill will "unleash a beast which can't be controlled or put back in its cage", according to shadow health minister John Healey.

Speaking at a breakfast briefing today at the Royal Society of Medicine (RSM), London, Healey said the bill would remove the protection the NHS has as a public service as it would be subject to the "full force of UK and EU competition law".

He said that under the Bill an alternative provider "does not have to convince a commissioner that they can provide that service they simply have to convince the competition regulator or a court, not on the grounds of better patient care, but on whether it breaches competition law".

He said that an increased presence of the private sector into the NHS "won't be down to politicians, managers, commissioners, GPs or patient decisions, it will be down to lawyers and courts."

Both he and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg today called for the Bill to be recommitted to parliament for fresh scrutiny in the commons.

Answering questions on the guardian.co.uk blog earlier this week Secretary of State for Health Andrew Lansley said the decision to recommit the bill would only be made after the government has received the report from the NHS Future forum, expected in the next two weeks, and that proper scrutiny of the Bill was assured.

Healey also said the Bill was not a continuation of Labour policy.

"First of all by the time we left government only three in a 100 operations were carried out by the private sector not NHS hospitals. Second where we were ready to use competition, ready to use private companies, it was always properly managed planned and publicly accountable and it was often to help clear waiting list and do something the NHS couldn't or wasn't able to do.

"Setting the NHS up as a regulated market places that imperative to competition at the very heart of the NHS whereas it was totally different role under Labour," he said.

He said that when it comes to foundation trusts (FTs) they government was using the same language "but the FTs in the bill are fundamentally different to the ones we set up".

"First of all they are independent and required to compete against each other second, there is no support from the wider NHS system thirdly, they will be subject by law to an insolvency system fourth, there will be no cap at all in treating private patients so NHS patients are likely to have to wait longer while hospitals develop a two-tier service."

He admitted that Labour had not gone far enough when in power in implementing the changes they would have like to seen in the NHS.

"We started to get [clinically led commissioning and better patient involvement] but we had further to go.

"We started to make sure we could see a smooth transition from the hospital back in to the community but we didn't go far enough to integrate the services."

 

 

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