Andrew George MP writes… The NHS Bill is putting our health service at risk

Liberal Democrats can reasonably claim to have been the architects and cheerleaders of the NHS. However, we now run the risk of being cast as the office juniors and apologists for the architects of its demise.

I used these words when I addressed the Spring Conference in Sheffield this year; during the debate which soundly castigated the Government’s controversial Health & Social Care Bill and which precipitated the unprecedented ‘pause’.

Though the media didn’t give us credit, two thirds of ‘unfettered’ (by Ministerial or other office) Liberal Democrat MPs rebelled in last week’s debate and votes on the Bill.

In spite of the excellent work of both Nick (Clegg) and Paul (Burstow) in securing important concessions after the ‘pause’ – about the role of Monitor, broadening the clinician base of the commissioning bodies and much else – the Bill we conveyed to the House of Lords still puts at risk many of the core values and strengths of the NHS.

That is why I maintained my opposition to this Bill, proposing over 40 amendments at Report Stage last week, voting against the Government and helping to persuade some of my colleagues to do the same.

What happens to the NHS over the next few years will determine the outcome of the next General Election, just as much as will the state of the UK economy. That’s how important the NHS is to the people of this country.

We have to remember that the Bill breaks the Coalition Agreement; is based on the false premise that the NHS performs poorly in comparison with health systems across Europe; and represents the biggest upheaval of the NHS in its history at precisely the time it really needs stability and certainty.

The Bill runs the very high risk of producing a national health service which is driven more by private profit than by concern about patient care; risks undermining emergency services through the fragmentation of health systems; represents a major missed opportunity to produce a health service that is more accountable to the patients and communities it serves; and fails to capitalise on the opportunity to significantly streamline the pathways between health and social care.

Although we are concentrating our efforts in seeking to constrain the Tory zeal to push the NHS in this direction, we should never let Labour get away with their claims to have been adequate custodians over the last decade. They paved the way and lay the foundations for this marketisation of our health service. It was they – with Tory support of course – who introduced Foundation Hospitals, who wasted £billions paying private companies for operations they never performed and who wasted £billions more on a false ‘choice’ computer system. It must be hard for them to swallow with all that butter not melting in their mouths. So don’t accept any lectures from Labour on health policy.

Nevertheless, the Bill has now gone to the House of Lords with Liberal Democrat criticisms ringing in the Government’s ears. I hope that will fortify our Peers and cross bench allies to wring telling concessions from the Ministers.

I’m still excited about Coalition politics. Of course the Conservatives are still, at one level, our mortal enemies (I don’t doubt the feeling’s mutual!) but grown up politics thankfully means an end to ‘yah boo’ tribalism: working together where we agree; seeking compromise where we don’t; and when we fail to achieve compromise, we widen the debate – consult more widely, pause, listen, slacken off the Party Whips and seek a more transparent reconciliation.

A narrow, heavily whipped and forced Government victory will put our NHS at risk. A popular reconciliation will save it. The Liberal Democrats should be the architects of that reconciliation.

* Andrew George MP is the Liberal Democrat representative on the Health Select Committee and Member of Parliament for the West Cornwall constituency of St Ives.

Read more by or more about .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.
Advert

11 Comments

  • Cllr Nick Cotter 17th Sep '11 - 8:53am

    I agree with Andrew !!!

    Nick Cotter, Banbury Constituency Liberal Democrats.

  • I fully agree, I hope that Evan Harris gets his debate on the health “reforms” so that there’s more chance of the LDs stopping this travesty of a health bill.

  • Andrew George 17th Sep '11 - 11:43am

    I should also have given credit where credit is due to Evan Harris, Shirley Williams, Charles West, Graham Winyard and many others. Unfortunately I understand that the Party’s Conference Committee rejected an appeal from Evan and Charles to have a debate and vote on the matter. It would help if delegates were given more than merely an opportunity to discuss the matter before the crucial Lords stages of the mBill next month. A votable motion/resolution would be a logical and responsible thing to do at this stage. Not to do so could appear like a deliberate and calculating act which – outwardly at least – would be counterproductive for the party; esp. after all of the efforts many of us have made to ensure that the party is distanced from the highest risk and most destructive elements of what should now be seen as Tory reforms.

    Cheers,

    Andrew

  • mike cobley 17th Sep '11 - 2:17pm

    Andrew, I share your views on the mibegotten travesty of Lansley’s health bill, yet we are now beyond the point where it can be usefully revised – in short, it should be junked, dumped, and otherwise left to gather dust on a Westminster shelf somewhere.

    I cannot share your enthusiasim for coalition with the Tory party – the Tories have shown time and time again that they despise and loathe the fundamentals of civil society which the great majority of the public likes. To be blunt, they are rabid dogs with their jaws clamped on the nation’s jugular; you dont negotiate with a rabid dog, you instead put as much distance as possible between you and it. Yes, I mean that the coalition is a foolish and malignant thing, and should be done away with ASAP.

    That, or the party continues on its death march into electoral catastrophe. Some of those reading this will respond with ire and a list of all the great things we’ve done in the coalition, blah blah, 75% of the manifesto, blah blah, which is sadly irrelevant to ordinary people who are losing libraries, play facilities, schools, bus services, local social services, etc etc. And its no use retorting with the ‘oh but look at the tax cuts for the low paid’ because any fule kno that a couple of hundred extra a year on a wage does NOT compensate for not having a local library any more, or not having a bus service, (insert local service cut).

    The Coalition’s ideology is simple and stark – you can have all the local services you want, the best schools, great libraries, bus services, dentists, opticians, play groups, social workers, social support for disabled, all of those things that go to make up the bedrock of a decent civil society – oh, so long as some company can figure out a way to make a profit out of it. Until then shuffle off to your hovels and make do with what you’ve got. And dont come whining to us – we’ve got some important meetings with bankers and financiers to attend.

  • “…we should never let Labour get away with their claims to have been adequate custodians over the last decade. They paved the way and lay the foundations for this marketisation of our health service. It was they – with Tory support of course – who introduced Foundation Hospitals, who wasted £billions paying private companies for operations they never performed and who wasted £billions more on a false ‘choice’ computer system. It must be hard for them to swallow with all that butter not melting in their mouths. So don’t accept any lectures from Labour on health policy”.

    “I’m still excited about Coalition politics. Of course the Conservatives are still, at one level, our mortal enemies (I don’t doubt the feeling’s mutual!) but grown up politics thankfully means an end to ‘yah boo’ tribalism…”

    You couldn’t make it up. Hypocrite!

  • Andrew George 18th Sep '11 - 2:03am

    Mike, and what plausible alternative was there?

    bob, yes, fair cop: ‘butter’ was perhaps a step too far. Have you followed the debate? My colleagues think I’m being hopelessly mild and constrained! it’s always an honour to have my imperfections pointed out by paragons of rectitude. It’s like having a press gallery sitting judgement over you. Many thanks.

  • John Carlisle 18th Sep '11 - 10:59am

    Andrew
    If we are serious about opposing the Bill, and we damned well ought to be then we should join the anti-Bill groups wherever they are near us. I feel like the lonely little LibDem petunia among the mainly extreme left-wingers and great medical staff here in Sheffield as we plan our next action (so far one march, one vigil and a week of leafletting). We should also invite experts like Dr Peedell to talk to our local LibDemmers. I have his slides: they are eye-watering in their clear statement of the negative, destructive impact of the Bill. If you would like to have the let me know.
    Finally, in my de-construction chats with older people like me I just say that I am a paid up shareholder in the NHS, having put about £150,00 worth of national insurance into the government coffers. That makes me entitled to “free” health treatment, and to vote as a shareholder would against policies that endager my investment.

  • mike cobley 18th Sep '11 - 1:59pm

    “Mike, and what plausible alternative was there?”

    Tedious as it is to some to rehash history, what the leadership could have negotiated was a limited coalition for limited aims over a limited period, rather than this all-in, 5-year, drain-the-poisoned-chalice-to-the-dregs quagmire in which we are now caught. But thats in the past and we are where we are, a situation in which we are enabling and cheering on measures and policies which we as a party would argue and fight against tooth and nail if they emerged from a Tory government with its own majority.

    But clearly the leadership – and seemingly yourself – think that austerity foisted on ordinary people is worth it, and that the enmity piled upon the party is worth it, and that the loss of hundreds of councillors is worth it. Worth banking not just the party but also the very bedrock of civil society on Osborne’s throw of the dice? That’s not a risk I would take.

  • Andrew George 18th Sep '11 - 3:39pm

    John, thanks. Copy slides would be great. Equally you may like to see my contributions to the debates over the last year; to the Health Select Committee I’m a member of; and the public meetings I’ve organised. We should work with those who agree with us. I know I’ll be accused by Bob of hypocrisy, but Labour critics should be reminded of their record. If Blairite Alan Milburn were Health Sec he’d be doing exactly what Lansley’s doing now.
    And Mike thanks for your response. The fact is that all alternative roads would have led to another General Election by now; the Tories with a clear and out right majority without LD restraint;and the Liberal Democrats decimated by an electorate who could justifiably conclude that we weren’t actually either serious about nor capable of delivering the consensus politics we have always espoused and which would be essential if a more proportionate electoral system were to be introduced.

    Andrew

  • Here’s a guardian piece about how the NHS fares when up against private companies in bidding for contracts. An award winning organisation, Central Surrey Health loses a £500 million contract to Assura Medical as they could not raise a £10 million bond as surety.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/patrick-butler-cuts-blog/2011/sep/19/social-enterprise-big-society-gets-reality-check

    The privatisation has started and the NHS Bill has not yet been agreed in the Lords. In 10 years there will be nothing left of the NHS, it will be nothing but a logo run by private companies.

    Well done to the Liberal Democrats who have enabled the fragmentation and privatisation of the NHS. I will never forget it to the day that I die and neither will a lot of other people.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?

Advert



Recent Comments

  • User AvatarPeter Watson 12th Dec - 1:11am
    @Paul Barker "All Polling averages are out-of-date, by definition but The BritainElects/New Statesman only uses the last Poll from each firm & thus more behind...
  • User AvatarHywel 12th Dec - 12:16am
    Now that votes are in I think it's fair to cast a critical eye over the LIb Dem campaign... {Looks quizzically at calendar.....} Oh.......
  • User AvatarPeter Watson 11th Dec - 11:13pm
    @David Raw "the narrow social base of the post 2010 Liberal Democrat Party" Some interesting graphics for this here (https://twitter.com/undertheraedar/status/1190192038274310144), especially this one (https://pbs.twimg.com/media/EIRpWQxXUAAkfyu?format=png&name=large) going...
  • User AvatarPeter Watson 11th Dec - 10:59pm
    @John B "in 2 out of the 3 the Lib Dems are still the main challengers, and the third is a tight 3 way marginal"...
  • User Avatarfrankie 11th Dec - 10:55pm
    The “presidential” nature of a campaign dominated by the leaders of the two largest parties has been illuminated by research that also reveals how Labour...
  • User AvatarRoss McLean 11th Dec - 10:46pm
    "You need to get it sorted when the dust settles. Oh, do I? Righto. I'll make a note of that. Meanwhile, lets get back to...
Tue 7th Jan 2020