Health Bill will lead to 'massive' EU interference in NHS, Lord Owen says

Opening up the NHS to competition from 'any willing provider' will cause a 'massive increase in EU interference' in the NHS, former health secretary Lord Owen has warned.

Lord Owen, a qualified doctor and Labour health secretary in the 1970s, said the any willing provider policy would have ‘profound consequences’. He said concerns around the proposal had not been sufficiently covered during the listening exercise.

Lord Owen has asked the DoH to release the legal advice it was given about the implications of the 'any willing provider' policy prior to the Health Bill publication.

He said: ‘It is an extraordinary paradox that a Conservative government that has rightly raised concerns about the extent of detailed EU interference in the day-to-day decision making within the UK should be blithely accepting a massive increase in EU interference without any publication of the legal advice….’

Lord Owen also raised concerns that the Health Bill removes the duty on the secretary of state to be accountable for a comprehensive health service.   

He said: ‘It is very apparent to me that in the present pause there are many people in the NHS who are unaware of the far-reaching nature of the proposed withdrawal of powers of the Secretary of State …

'It is very important… that people working in the NHS ask themselves whether they feel confident in defending and taking these rationing choices without the previous protection afforded by the Government, the Secretary of State and the Westminster Parliament.’

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg suggested during a speech at the University College London Hospital this week that the Bill's wording could be changed to make it clearer that the Secretary of State would be accountable for the NHS.

He said: ‘I’ve heard people suggest that our reforms could lead to politicians washing their hands of our health services, because of the way the Bill is phrased.

‘So we need to be clearer – the Secretary of State will continue to be accountable for your health services.’

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