NHS Bill is 'toxic cocktail of competition, markets and cuts'

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date: 5 September 2011

embargo: 00:01 hours Tuesday 6 September 2011

The Health and Social Care Bill, due to start its final Commons stages today (Tuesday), has been 'barely improved' by the government's pause and Future Forum consultation, says the TUC in a briefing for MPs produced on behalf of all its member health unions.

The main concern of health staff that the Bill undermines the founding principles of the NHS has not been met, says the TUC. Instead the NHS will be made more complex and bureaucratic with new structures absorbing funds that will be taken from patient care at a time when services are already being cut.

NHS staff's top concerns with the Bill are:

  • The reforms are still based on extending competition and markets within the health service even though international evidence already shows the NHS is one of the most efficient health systems in the world.
  • NHS hospitals will be allowed to maximise their income from private patients, which will mean NHS patients are pushed to the back of growing waiting lists.
  • The government is still pushing ahead with the Any Qualified Provider concept which will hinder NHS provision, and open up swathes of the health service to the private sector.
  • The Secretary of State for Health will no longer have a full duty to ensure the provision of NHS services, increasing the risk of postcode lotteries in the care available, and meaning a lack of accountability.
  • The changes are being forced through at a time when the NHS is already being asked to find £20 billion of efficiency savings (4 per cent a year) and Monitor* has advised foundation trusts to find an extra 2.5 per cent a year. The cost of the re-organisation is estimated at £3 billion a year and is rising by £1 million a day.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: 'Instead of dealing with the real criticisms of its health reforms, the government is simply making the reforms even more complex and bureaucratic. If MPs don't reject the Bill, we will be calling on Peers to use their powers to the full to save the NHS.

'Neither coalition party said they would undermine the NHS in this way in their manifestos, and the government has absolutely no mandate for this toxic cocktail of competition, markets and cuts.'

The TUC is calling on NHS supporters to hold a vigil for the NHS as MPs vote on the Bill on Wednesday. They can show their support online at www.goingtowork.org.uk and 'adopt a Peer' to ensure Peers will hear from NHS defenders as they start to debate the Bill. The TUC will be organising a candlelit vigil at Westminster on Wednesday evening (details below).

Vigil details

At 9.30pm on Wednesday 7 September, Brendan Barber, UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis, Royal College of Midwives General Secretary Cathy Warwick, Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey, Frances O'Grady, TUC Deputy General Secretary and Lesley Mercer, Director of Employment Relations at the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, will be joined by health service workers to gather for a candle-lit vigil.

The aim of the vigil is to lobby Peers, who will be taking on the responsibility of safeguarding the NHS' future if MPs vote to pass the Bill, and to show them that the fight to protect the NHS will not end in the Commons.

The vigil is taking place at Old Palace Yard, at the southern end of the Houses of Parliament for about an hour. As well as their (battery-operated) candles and torches, vigil attendees will stand in front of a giant candle-shaped banner featuring pictures of supporters of the All Together for the NHS campaign.

NOTES TO EDITORS:

- *Monitor is the economic regulator currently regulating foundation trusts and under the Health and Social Care Bill its powers and remit would be increased significantly.

- Congress 2011 will be held at the TUC's Congress House in central London this year. The event runs over three days, from Monday 12 to Wednesday 14 September. Free media passes can be obtained by visiting www.tuc.org.uk/the_tuc/tuc-19831-f0.cfm and filling in the online form. All applications for media passes must be received no later than noon on Monday 5 September. Any applications received after then will be processed when possible and may be subject to delay. Late applications will be subject to a £50 administration fee. Wi-fi will be available free of charge throughout the venue.

- Motions on the NHS will be debated on Tuesday 13 September, the second day of Congress 2011.

Contacts:

Media enquiries:
Liz Chinchen T: 020 7467 1248 M: 07778 158175 E: media@tuc.org.uk
Rob Holdsworth T: 020 7467 1372 M: 07717 531150 E: rholdsworth@tuc.org.uk
Elly Gibson T: 020 7467 1337 M: 07900 910624 E: egibson@tuc.org.uk

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