What Lib Dem members think about the NHS Bill: 57% opposed, but majority might back it if significantly amended

We’ve been surveying the views of current Lib Dem members this week on your views on the NHS Bill. Over 500 responded, and here’s what you told us…

  • A majority of Lib Dem members – and a majority of Lib Dem members who will be voting delegates at the party’s spring conference at NewcastleGateshead this weekend – oppose the Coalition Government’s NHS reforms as they currently stand. By 57% to 32%, Lib Dem members reject the Health & Social Care Bill.
  • However, that does not automatically mean the Lib Dem conference will vote to ‘Kill the Bill’ if there is a vote for three reasons:
      1. First, opinion is more evenly split on the principle of GP commissioning replacing PCTs, another major part of the Bill. Among all members it’s opposed by a narrow margin, 46%-45%, but among Lib Dem conference delegates, there is a slight but significant shift in its favour, 50%-41%.

      2. Secondly, and most importantly, on the controversial Chapter 3 – the part of the Bill which deals with competition in the NHS – Lib Dem members might be persuaded to support the Bill if there are changes. 32% of party members (including 37% of conference delegates) would support the Bill if Chapter 3 is significantly amended to include safeguards designed to prioritise patient care over profits. Together with those who support the Bill as it is, and who are unlikely to drop their support if Chapter 3 is amended, Lib Dem members would then support the Bill 49%-39%; among conference delegates the margin would be a little greater, 53%-38%.

      3. Thirdly, Shirley Williams’ influence at conference could be pivotal. Our survey suggests she is by far the most trusted senior Lib Dem figure when it comes to the NHS, with a net satisfaction rating of +57% on this issue. If Baroness Williams swings her full weight behind amending Chapter 3 and then supporting the Bill, the Lib Dem conference is likely to listen very carefully. By contrast, both Nick Clegg and Paul Burstow, the Lib Dem minister in the health office, have negative satisfaction ratings among party members on this issue.

  • Regardless of their personal views on the NHS Bill, party members are pessimistic about the impact on the Lib Dems’ electoral chances. Almost three-quarters, 72%, think the party will be damaged as a result, and 42% of that group think the Lib Dems will be ‘seriously damaged’.
  • Here are the full survey results:

    The government’s proposed reforms of the National Heath Service are currently going through Parliament. From what you have seen or heard about them, do you support or oppose the Coalition government’s NHS reforms as they currently stand?

      Strongly Support 5%
      Support 27%
      Total Support = 32%
      Oppose 30%
      Strongly Oppose 27%
      Total Oppose = 57%
      Don’t know / No opinion 12%

    The government plans to restructure the NHS so that instead of services being run by local primary care trusts, they will be run by consortiums made up of local doctors. From what you have seen or heard about this policy, do you support or oppose it?

      Strongly Support 8%
      Support 37%
      Total Support = 45%
      Oppose 27%
      Strongly Oppose 19%
      Total Oppose = 46%
      Don’t know / No opinion 9%

    One of the most controversial parts of the Health and Social Care Bill relates to Chapter 3 on competition. Its supporters say Chapter 3 will improve patient choice, and should be retained in its current format. Its opponents, however, say Chapter 3 will result in profit being put before patients. Some Chapter 3 opponents propose it should, therefore, be dropped in its entirely. Other Chapter 3 opponents propose that it should instead be significantly amended because they want to retain those parts which seek to ‘plug the holes’ left by Labour’s 2006 Health Act. Which of these statements comes closest to your view:

      17% – I support retaining Chapter 3 as it stands and support the Bill
      9% – I oppose Chapter 3 and think it should be dropped in its entirety – I would then support the Bill
      32% – I oppose Chapter 3 but think it should be retained if it can be significantly amended – I would then support the Bill
      30% – I would not support the Bill even if Chapter 3 is dropped or amended
      8% – Don’t know / No opinion

    Irrespective of whether you support or oppose the Bill, what do you think will be the most likely electoral impact on the Lib Dems if it is passed in some form with the party’s support:

      42% – It will badly damage the Lib Dems and will be a major vote-loser for the party at the next general election
      30% – It will damage the Lib Dems but is unlikely to be a major vote-loser for the party at the next general election
      17% – There will be little or no damage to the party
      8% – It will help the Lib Dems a little at the next general election but is unlikely to be a major vote-winner for the party at the next general election
      0% – It will substantially help the Lib Dems at the next general election and will be a major vote-winner for the party at the next general election
      3% – Don’t know / No opinion

    How would you rate the performances of the following leading Liberal Democrats specifically on the issue of the NHS reform bill?

    • Paul Burstow MP, Minster of State for Care Services
    • Very satisfied 6%
      Satisfied 20%
      Total Satisfied 26%
      Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied 38%
      Dissatisfied 22%
      Very dissatisfied 14%
      Total Dissatisfied 36%
      Net Satisfaction -10% -15%

    • Nick Clegg MP, Deputy Prime Minister
    • Very satisfied 8%
      Satisfied 27%
      Total Satisfied 35%
      Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied 16%
      Dissatisfied 29%
      Very dissatisfied 20%
      Total Dissatisfied 49%
      Net Satisfaction -14%

    • Baroness (Shirley) Williams, Liberal Democrat peer
    • Very satisfied 28%
      Satisfied 42%
      Total Satisfied 70%
      Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied 14%
      Dissatisfied 12%
      Very dissatisfied 4%
      Total Dissatisfied 16%
      Net Satisfaction +54%

    • John Pugh MP, Co-Chair of the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Party Committee on Health and Social Care

    • Very satisfied 10%
      Satisfied 22%
      Total Satisfied 32%
      Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied 54%
      Dissatisfied 10%
      Very dissatisfied 5%
      Total Dissatisfied 15%
      Net Satisfaction +17%

    • Baroness (Judith) Jolly, Co-Chair of the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Party Committee on Health and Social Care
    • Very satisfied 5%
      Satisfied 18%
      Total Satisfied 23%
      Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied 62%
      Dissatisfied 10%
      Very dissatisfied 5%
      Total Dissatisfied 15%
      Net Satisfaction +8%

    • Over 1,300 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with LibDemVoice.org. Some 507 responded to the latest survey, of whom 147 said they are registered and able to vote at this weekend’s party conference in NewcastleGateshead. The survey was conducted between 4th and 8th March.
    • Please note: we make no claims that the survey is fully representative of the Lib Dem membership as a whole. However, LibDemVoice.org’s surveys are the largest independent samples of the views of Lib Dem members across the country, and have in the past accurately predicted the winners of the contest for Party President, and the result of the conference decision to approve the Coalition agreement.
    • The full archive of our members’ surveys can be viewed at www.libdemvoice.org/category/ldv-members-poll

    * Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

    Read more by or more about , , , , , , , or .
    This entry was posted in LDV Members poll.


    • 57% That is a good 5-10% lower than I would of guessed.

    • I am sorry, but if this had been an “All Party Members” poll instead of 500 members and Voting Reps then the results would be vastly different!

      Even with Amendments as they stand, this is still a very flawed Bill. It must not be allowed to be bulldozed through at an obscene rate like the Welfare Reform Bill has been done this week.

      I will wait with interest to read, not only positive comments made by participants in the Poll, but the negative ones too! If none appear, then I will post up my negative comments which I saved for myself in a document, despite being unable to complete the Survey due to technical problems.

      Yet again, the views of the full Membership are not being considered!

    • Kevin White 9th Mar '12 - 9:28am

      Dave, if we stop the Bill it will be us who stop it and the public will know that. It’s got nothing to do with Labour and its silly leader and the public will know that too.

    • Nick (not Clegg) 9th Mar '12 - 10:23am

      Is it right to assume that most people responded to this poll before publication of Dame Shirley’s speech on Tuesday? I wonder to what extent the results would have differed if people had responded afterwards.

    • David Allen 9th Mar '12 - 1:21pm

      Amy, Rebekah,

      57% against versus 32% in favour is actually a landslide, especially as it contradicts the leadership view.

    • Richard Dean 9th Mar '12 - 1:26pm

      I hope there are more than 500 LibDem members! A lot more! If so, this poll isn’t representative, and if not, it doesn’t matter.

    • @Richard – its amusing to see that you- the H&SC bill’s most vocal proponent on these message boards doesn’t even know the meaning of the word “representative”. 2-1 against the bill is about right IMHO, considering the sheer number of changes already made to it.

    • Richard Dean 9th Mar '12 - 11:34pm

      Alistair – Actually I’m worse that that, I can’t decipher the meaning of your entire comment! 🙂

    • If the Liberal Democrats do not block the NHS bill, which the overwhelming majority of all health professionals oppose then they will be finished as an electoral force.

      Why are many Liberal Democrat members supporting a bill that they would oppose and kill in any other circumstances ? Why are the Liberal Democrats staking their future on such an unmandated, unpopular and dogs dinner of a bill ?

      The risk register relating to possible difficulties of the bill must be published. It is likely that the risk register identifies the gaping holes and clearly spells out the difficulties of the legislation. It is very instructive that the Conservatives do not wish this document to be published until after the legislation has been passed.

      It will be published or become available at some point. Those that passed the bill will be held to account for all the coming difficulties and mess over the next 10 years. This will be brought back to the doorsteps of those that passed it.

      A reminder on last years liberal democrats amendments requested. Only 3 of the 8 amendments have been met. Not good enough.


      Kill the bill for the majority of the country’s health and well being.

    • Pulp Quango 10th Mar '12 - 4:12pm

      Smooth move, the Sunday debate has been dropped to spare the leaderships blushes…… “All of you know that the media do not recognise that we have a uniquely democratic conference in the Lib Dems, one where we do ask our members to come and deal with us, talk with ministers. And I deeply resent that kind of statement.” – Shirley Williams……. You can carve it on the party tombstone.

    • Richard – 500 is more than enough to get a representative sample of members. Also I would say on balance that when LDV have polled questions of policy and attitudes towards leadership etc the answers come out quite a bit more conservative than I would have thought based on activist views rather than “armchair members”

    • Richard Dean 10th Mar '12 - 6:22pm

      @Hywel. I’m sure you are right. I am a bit shocked by the attendance at Gateshead. The Guardian says there are only 150 LibDem members taking part. Is it true? That’s not good at all for a party that aims to form the government next time, and it doesn’t seem to give too much authority to whatever decisions are made by the voting.

    • Richard: 150 is way off – over 580 conference reps voted in the motion ballot for a start, plus there are plenty of non-voting reps and others here. Perhaps it meant there were around 150 people in the hall at one point?

    • It is hard to believe that electability might be considered as a criterion for whether to support this H&SC Bill anyway.

      What is amazing to me, an ordinary NHS patient, is that there is so much complacency about this bill. The degree of satisfaction with Shirley Williams seems to be based on her obvious good intentions and ignores her mistaken judgement. Going along with this bill, however much it is modified to save the NHS from harm, will harm the NHS, will harm patients and ultimately will kill people. The bill should be killed not the patients. To deny this is similar to denying that smoking kills: difficult to prove until you see the evidence laid out starkly, but the Bill will kill if it is not killed first. A preemptive strike is needed.

      The question above on Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) vis-a vis GPs was predictable. The responses suggest you’d like your nice friendly GP to saddle him/herself with the responsibility formerly carried by the PCTs of commissioning, which means anticipating and planning for supply and demand (and changes in demand to deal with demography, changes in disease, flu outbreaks, migration of population and so on ). Does your GP know much about that? Would you expect them to have skills in this area? PCTs have handled about 80% of the £100 Billion budget of the NHS. So difficult is this task, which used to be done by experts in the PCTs, it won’t really be entrusted to the GP groups at all. That part of the original plan has been abandoned: instead GPs will have the care that they provide rationed from another layer of bureaucracy on high and that layer will be wide open to private intervention from the likes of McKinsey, the financial and the international health companies. So when you answer that instead of services being run by local primary care trusts, you prefer them to be run by consortia made up of local doctors, what you are saying in effect is all that I have described: a massive change that nobody has any idea about because it has not been tested in pilot form at all. It’s a leap in the dark and an invitation to back door privatisation.

      You doubt what I say? OK, let’s turn it around. You are about to embark on a journey in a leaky ship. You know it is full of leaks and you know where some of them are. You have three days to fix it before launch. You get that nice Shirley Williams to organise the repair of the ship and then you launch it and set sail. Would you do that? Would you do it if you realised that the services such as search and rescue had been in the grip of privatised forces for years and were being advised by insurance and finance companies. Pretty risky, eh? YOU are taking that risk by voting for your GP to take over commissioning – or rather to play at it while the big boys do it upstairs.

      Quite frankly you have been duped by this question and you should be angry. You have been led into a sense of false security because the business of a PCT is a business most people know little about (I knew little about it until I studied it, so I know what it felt like before I had done my study).

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