- NHS campaigners claim that the Health and Care Bill is bad for NHS patients and bad for NHS staff.
- It will reduce the government’s obligations to secure NHS care for us all – potentially making the government non-compliant with its duty to provide an effective framework for protection of the right to life.
- And it seems set to worsen the current NHS front line staff shortage, by threatening national agreements on wages, terms and conditions of employment, deregulating NHS professions and introducing flexible staff redeployment across NHS organisations, based on “learning” from redeployment of nurses and doctors during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Calderdale and Kirklees 999 Call for the NHS campaigners have already called on Calderdale MPs to oppose the Bill in Parliament.
On Saturday July 17 they successfully launched a public petition to Calderdale Council’s Leader Cllr Tim Swift, asking him to:
- Oppose the Health and Care Bill
- Lead Calderdale Council Cabinet and Labour Councillors to do the same
- Constructively propose to Councillors from other parties that they too oppose the Bill
The petition will soon be online, please come back soon to find the link
Members of the public filled three pages of the petition on Saturday July 17, while campaigners staged a mock tug of war outside Wilko in central Halifax, in protest against the Health and Care Bill.
To applause from bystanders, the tug of war was won by Team NHS – annihilating the NHS Corporate Takeover Team.
The losing team’s members were dressed as Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Health Secretary Sajid Javid, ViginCare boss Richard Branson and Samantha Jones – Boris Johnson’s NHS Transformation adviser, and former Chief Exec of the USA Centene Corporation’s UK subsidiary, Operose Health – the biggest GP Practice provider in England.
The Bill would reduce the government’s obligations to secure NHS care for us all
A huge concern raised by campaigners is that the Bill would reduce the government’s obligations to secure NHS care for us all – potentially making the government non-compliant with its duty to provide an effective framework for protection of the right to life. (1)
Jenny Shepherd, chair of Calderdale and Kirklees 999 Call for the NHS, which organised the protest in Halifax, said:
“We’ve been reading the Health and Care Bill and there is a very alarming section that appears to say that the new statutory Integrated Care Boards would not be required to provide NHS hospital medical services and opthalmic services in their area. And that’s not all.
“I have asked my MP Craig Whittaker to find out from the Health Secretary what that means, as well as to question a section of the Bill that reads as if the new Integrated Care Boards will not be required to provide NHS services for everyone in their area.
“And there is nothing in the Bill about NHS front line staff’s national agreements on wages, terms and conditions of employment. But there is plenty about how the postcode lottery Payment Scheme for the new Integrated Care Boards will impose strict NHS spending limits. This makes us suspect existing national agreements will be undermined.”
Campaigners point out that the Doctors’ Trade Union, the British Medical Association, has already rejected the Bill.
They are also concerned that the Bill opens the NHS door even wider to privatisation, by creating a deregulated “market” for NHS services, so crony contracting could become the norm. (1)
Presently, Section 75 of the 2012 Health and Social Care Act requires open competitive tendering for NHS services. The government’s new legislation would end this requirement.
Campaigners say this would be fine if the Bill also committed to making NHS organisations the default choice for delivering health care services. But it doesn’t.
Instead, the Bill completely deregulates the contracting process, by exempting the NHS from the Public Contracting Regulations 2015.
NHS campaigner Chrissie Parker said,
“Our NHS cannot afford a takeover by companies creaming off profits for their shareholders, taking money away from patient care and from improving pay and conditions for the dedicated staff in the NHS.”
Big business at the heart of decision making and delivery of front line health services
Further concerns have been raised that the Bill will put big business at the heart of Integrated Care Board decision making and delivery of front line health services. (1)
There is nothing in the Bill to prevent private healthcare providers from Integrated Care Board membership.
Already one shadow Integrated Care Board in the West Country has Virgin Care as a member, while the shadow Integrated Care Board in West Yorkshire and Harrogate has a GP member who works for the big Modality company.
But when Calderdale and Kirklees 999 Call for the NHS asked about conflict of interest, we were told there was none.
NHS campaigner Rosemary Hedges said,
“By allowing private healthcare a seat on the Board and a role in commissioning and contract awarding, the Health and Care Bill is another step down the road of privateers making profits from our public money, and undermining the original basis of the NHS. We will fight this Bill every step of the way.”
No evidence for positive impacts on public’s health and health equity
Campaigners also point to the futility of the Bill (1). A recent systematic review of the impacts of the health and care collaborative model, (which the Bill imposes), concluded there is no evidence this has any positive impacts on the public’s health and health equity (ie everyone being able to attain their full potential for health and well-being without experiencing structural barriers to this).
What’s happening in Parliament
When the second reading of the Bill was debated in the House of Commons on 14 July, it was opposed by the Labour Party which presented a motion to decline the second reading.
Halifax MP, Holly Lynch, voted in favour of the motion and against approval of the second reading. The Calder Valley MP, Craig Whittaker, voted against the motion and for approval of the second reading.
In all, 218 MPs voted against the second reading and 356 MPs voted for it.
The Bill will now go to the Public Bill Committee stage, probably in September. Campaigners say they intend to give evidence to the Committee about the damage this Bill will do to the NHS in the West Yorkshire and Harrogate Integrated Care System area, and what they want the Committee to do about the Bill.
Health and Care Bill notes and references
You can download notes and references here (pdf file)