I'm one of half a million people who signed the 38 Degrees online petition to stop the privatisation of the NHS.
38 Degrees have since sought independent legal advice about the changes the coalition government is proposing. That advice is sobering. Despite David Cameron's “listening exercise”, the government’s changes to the NHS plans could still pave the way for a shift towards a US-style health system, where private companies profit at the expense of patient care.
Barrister Rebecca Haynes found that the government's plans could mean private healthcare companies and their lawyers benefit most from changes, not patients. Another barrister, Stephen Cragg, found that we were right to be worried that the Health Secretary’s legal duty to provide a health service will be scrapped. See here for the Guardian's report on this.
On top of all that, a new “hands-off clause” removes the government's powers to oversee local consortia and guarantee the level of service wherever we live. We can expect increases in postcode lotteries – and fewer ways to hold the government to account if the service deteriorates.
The NHS will almost certainly be subject to UK and EU competition law and the reach of procurement rules will extend across all NHS commissioners. Private health companies will be able to take new NHS commissioning groups to court if they don’t win contracts. Scarce public money could be tied up in legal wrangles instead of hospital beds. Meanwhile, the legislation lifts the cap on NHS hospitals filling beds with private patients.
This is our NHS, and it’s up to us to defend it. MPs vote on this in just seven days so please act now. Please email your MP to ask them to vote against the changes to the NHS.