The following is my response to the NHS Bill, which reflects official Labour policy, endorsed by Labour’s Leader Jeremy Corbyn MP:
I have recently received a large volume of correspondence from my constituents regarding the National Health Service Bill, a Private Member’s Bill that includes provisions for major changes to the way the NHS functions and commissions services.
The NHS Bill was presented to the House of Commons last year by Caroline Lucas MP, and on Friday 11 March it is scheduled to receive its second reading in the House. I regret that due to existing constituency and medical commitments I cannot be present, but I thought it would be helpful if I set out my views on the Bill.
If the NHS Bill were to receive its second reading this week, there is little prospect of it becoming law in this session due to a lack of parliamentary time (as is the case for almost all Private Member’s Bills). Bills must go through at least ten stages in both the Commons and the Lords in order to receive Royal Assent. In addition, the Conservatives are not sympathetic to the aims of this Bill and their parliamentary majority makes its passage almost impossible.
Labour is supportive of the overall objectives of the NHS Bill. In particular, we support the principles behind duties outlined in Clause 1 of the proposed Bill – namely restoring accountability to the Secretary of State for the delivery of health services and the requirement that a comprehensive health service continues to be provided free of charge.
Labour also believes that the encroaching privatisation of the NHS must be halted and that decisions about NHS services should never be called into question by any international treaties or agreements, such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
However, Labour has concerns that some of the other parts of this Bill would require another wholesale reorganisation of the health service.
The recent top-down reorganisation of the NHS, brought about by the Coalition’s Health and Social Care Act 2012, threw the system into turmoil, cost over £3bn and eroded staff morale.
So whilst I and the Labour Party support the broad objectives which lie behind this Bill, I am concerned about the scale of structural change and costs associated with any further major reorganisation of the NHS.
If the Bill were to proceed, Labour would seek to amend it so that it avoids the problems of a further reorganisation but implements the key principles of the Bill.
In line with our manifesto commitment at the last election, Labour is committed to repealing the competition elements of the Health and Social Care Act 2012, and ensuring that patient care is always put before profits, and collaboration before competition.
The government’s mismanagement of the NHS is extremely alarming – I certainly understand the concern that my constituents have about this. No one is more determined to champion the NHS than the Labour Party – it was a Labour government that introduced it in 1948. However, we believe that this Bill has no chance of pressuring the Tory government to change its approach and is a distraction from the real work that is going on to hold them to account.