RCGP chairwoman backs Bill to ensure NHS is free

RCGP chairwoman Professor Clare Gerada has backed crossbench peer Lord Owen's Bill which aims to reinstate the health secretary's duty to provide free healthcare and make all NHS providers accountable to parliament.

Professor Gerada: 'Although it's gone quiet on NHS front, doesn’t mean we agree with Act.'
Professor Gerada: 'Although it's gone quiet on NHS front, doesn’t mean we agree with Act.'

The National Health Service (Amended Duties and Powers) Bill, which is due to be registered in the House of Lords today, aims to provide a legal basis for the NHS in England, which according to Lord Owen, the Health and Social Care Act threatens.

According to Lord Owen, this is because the law which required the health secretary to fund and provide all medical care to the whole population, on an equitable basis, was abolished after the Health and Social Care Act become law last year.

Lord Owen’s Bill aims to make all bodies providing NHS services subject to ministerial control and to make it the health secretary’s duty to ‘promote’ a comprehensive and integrated health service.

The Bill also says that services ‘must be free of charge except in so far as the making and recovery of charges is expressly provided for by or under any enactment, whenever passed’.

Lord Owen said: ‘This Bill, if it becomes an Act in 2015, will come just in time to save it from the worst ravages of an external and full-blooded market.

‘The commercial entities that will start to marketise the NHS from April 2013, in ever increasing numbers, will not be willing purely because of a general election to acquiesce in the stopping of contractual negotiations. They will want to push ahead and get in under the wire.

‘What is needed… is a short Bill capable of being implemented quickly and with surgical precision, filleting out the ideological nonsense of a reorganisation that only the ideologues wanted and has damaged the health service in every month since it began to be implemented.’

RCGP chairwoman Professor Clare Gerada said that although she doubts that the Bill will be successful, it is important to show that people still oppose the coalition’s reforms.

She said: ‘I support anything that gets us to a position that puts the emphasis on a health system that provides a fair and equal system that is value for money, which I don’t think the current Health and Social Care Act does.

‘I suspect it won’t make a difference at all. It alerts people to the fact that although it has gone quiet on the NHS front, it doesn’t mean we agree with it [the Health and Social Care Act].

‘The secretary of state needs to be accountable. Service providers need to be accountable some way to parliament.’

A DH spokesman said: 'The Health and Social Care Act specifically states that: 'The health secretary retains ministerial responsibility to parliament for the provision of the health service in England'.

'The government made amendments to the Act to put beyond any doubt the health secretary's responsibility for the health service. The health secretary also remains accountable through an annual report on the performance of the health service. This was debated extensively throughout the passage of the Health and Social Care Act and the amendment was accepted after constructive cross-party discussion.'

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