Leading GPs back MP's bid to overturn part of Health Act

Senior GPs are backing a Labour MP's attempt to reverse parts of the Health and Social Care Act in a debate in parliament on Friday.

Parliament: MPs debate Health and Social Care Act rethink (Photo: Ian Bottle)

private member’s bill moved by MP Clive Efford (Lab, Eltham and Plumstead) would repeal section 75 rules requiring tendering for NHS services, exempt the health service from the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) trade deal - which critics fear could undermine the health service - and would hand back responsibility for the NHS to the health secretary.

The NHS (Amended Duties and Powers) Bill is backed by the Labour party, health unions, the 38 Degrees campaign group, and former health secretary Lord David Owen.

Chairwoman of Tower Hamlets LMC and Unite/MPU representative on the GPC Dr Jackie Applebee will address a rally in support of the bill outside parliament later today.

She welcomed the bill's direction of travel and its recognition of the damaging elements of the 2012 act. She called on GPs to support it, but added: ‘It is only a start and does not go nearly far enough.'

Bill does not go far enough

‘Importantly it does not properly restore the duty of the secretary of state to provide a comprehensive and universal health care system across England, nor does it abolish the damaging and costly purchaser/provider split,' she said.

The only hope, said Dr Applebee, was for a complete repeal of the Health and Social Care Act. ‘This is what people who value the NHS must continue to fight tooth and nail for.’

GPC and BMA council member and Keep Our NHS Public campaigner Dr David Wrigley, who also supports the bill, said it had opened up a public debate over NHS privatisation. 

‘If the bill passed it would free up time for CCGs to focus on developing general practice rather than administering the cumbersome market driven tendering process.’

‘However,' he added, ‘I fear the Tories and Liberal Democrats will not support the bill, therefore it will fall.’

Mr Efford warned the NHS would ‘disappear if we continue to allow services to be forced out to private companies’.

Private sector challenge

‘It will seriously undermine the capacity of the NHS to provide services in the future, leaving us at the mercy of the private sector. This Bill will halt the rush to privatisation and put patients rather than profits at the heart of our NHS.’

The BMA has given qualified support to the bill, as a ‘positive step towards removing some of the worst elements of the act’, in particular the over emphasis on competition over integration.

A BMA spokesman said: ‘We support the bill’s intention to reverse the decision to remove final accountability for the NHS from the health secretary, making it clear that the government must retain ultimate responsibility for the provision of a comprehensive health service. NHS England and CCGs must, however, have day-to-day operational independence.’

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt told the BBC: ‘This bill is another example of Labour putting politics before patients, seeking to frighten people who rely on the NHS with phony privatisation claims.

‘But the British public won't be fooled by scaremongering from the party that opened the NHS up to private provision.

‘They know the real debate in health is not public versus private, but good care versus poor care, and Labour have yet to answer to the patients and families who suffered in the failing hospitals that they swept under the carpet.’

The bill receives its second reading in the House of Commons today.

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