Health bill faces more pressure from NHS workers.
Despite the result of the House of Commons vote on the Health and Social Care Bill, with 316 to 251 in favour, many healthcare professionals and groups have continued to stress that it would lead to privatisation of the NHS and greater inequalities.
The day after the vote, Unite national officer for health Rachael Maskell said: 'Last night proved that this government is still not listening to the people who know what is best for patients--NHS professionals. This government is committed to handing over billions in tax payers' money to private multinationals who will put profit before the needs of patients and see vital services fragment to the detriment of service users.'
Peter Carter, general secretary of the RCN echoed these fears: 'We still have very serious concerns about where these reforms leave a health service already facing an unprecedented financial challenge. We are telling MPs this Bill risks creating a new and expensive bureaucracy and fragmenting care.'
As the Bill approaches its House of Lords debate, two peers have already locked horns on the issue. Lady Shirley Williams has raised concerns about privatisation and duty of care, saying: 'Why have they tried to get away from the NHS as a public service, among the most efficient, least expensive and fairest anywhere in the world?'
She added: 'The remarkable vision of the 1945 Atlee government, of a public service free at the point of need for all of the people of England, should not be allowed to die.'
But Lord Howe delivered a speech just days before the Commons vote stating that it did not matter 'one jot' who provided care to NHS patients if the quality of service was high, and it was free at the point of delivery. This has lead to mass outcry from unions and healthcare representative groups, who say that the provider of care is an issue of high importance to patients, who do not like the idea of being treated by companies whose sole interest is profit.
The Bill was also challenged by a large demonstration on the eve of its third reading in the Commons. Dozens of NHS health workers and protesters donned surgical gear and David Cameron masks to demonstrate against the Bill on Westminster Bridge. The health workers held NHS 'For Sale' estate agent signs to illustrate their fears that the institution is being opened up to damaging competition practices.
Rachael said: 'David Cameron promised he would not privatise the NHS. Yet the Health and Social Care Bill will open up lucrative NHS contracts to private healthcare companies whose main aim is to maximise profits for their shareholders.'
Rachael urged members to 'do your part' to campaign against the Bill. She said: 'The fight to save the NHS is far from over and we would ask every single NHS professional to do their part in saving the NHS.'
She added: 'The Health and Social Care Bill has not yet gone to the House of Lords--our members need to write to peers and let them know how they feel about the reforms. For more details, visit the health sector pages of the Unite website, the NHS Alert campaign, or talk to your regional office.'
For more information on the NHS Alert campaign, please see: www.nhsalert.org.uk and the Unite health sector website: www.unitetheunion.org/health