A campaign group formed of NHS health workers named ‘Keep Our NHS Public’ have called for a picket of the House of Lords at 2pm today – just as the contentious NHS reform bill reaches report stage in the Lords.
The Health and Social Care Bill has met with resistance since the Secretary of State for Health, Andrew Lansley, introduced it in January 2011.
Today, the bill will return to the House of Lords where it will be scrutinised line by line, despite Government already making a string of concessions.
Today’s demo, which is expected to continue until 8pm, is organised by the Hackney division of KONP. The group are protesting against the proposed privatisation of the NHS, which has been widely opposed by health professionals and GPs.
The event comes just four days after The Royal College of GPs and Physiotherapists joined the British Medical Association, Royal College of Nursing and Royal College of Midwives in calling for the health bill to be scrapped.
Lansley has clamed that the bill will improve patient care and choice, make services more accountable and decrease bureaucracy.
Under proposed new laws, doctors will form groups to commission or buy services from English hospitals and care trusts – but commissioning for GPs themselves will pass to regional health boards.
Lansley said: “In the future, we want those closest to patients – doctors, nurses and other clinicians – to be in charge of the NHS budget to deliver care for patients. Next year, the NHS will be bringing clinical leadership to the forefront in planning services for patients.”
But Hackney GPs believe otherwise.
Dr Anne Solomon, a Hackney GP said: “GP surgeries get money for each patient. If the bill passes then rich city practises can cherry pick young and healthy patients, leaving surgeries in poorer areas left looking after patients with chronic health problems.
“There needs to be a balance of healthy and sick patients for the system to work and the patients to receive the treatments and care they require.”
Last November doctors spoke out against a leaked government document they said outlined plans to hand over much of the commissioning power to private companies.
Dr Coral Jones, a GP in Hackney, told EastLondonLines that privatisation would create unhealthy competition. “If the bill goes through, the NHS will be driven by the private sector. Hospitals will start to compete with each other, and big hospitals like the Homerton Hospital, will have to specialise to attract patients.”
Nick Bailey, the treasurer for Hackney Keep our NHS Public, went as far to say that the bill will lead to a crucial loss of trust between patients and doctors: “By giving GP’s the responsibility of handling the budgets, there is a threat that the patients care will be influenced by money.”