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Campaigners arrange Health Bill protests


Protests are being planned ahead of the Health and Social Care Bill’s passage through Parliament next week.

UNISON and the BMA are planning to show their opposition to the controversial reforms to coincide with report stage and third reading of the Bill on the 6th and 7th September.

Local events nationwide are planned to coincide with Bill entering the House of Commons with NHS staff and patients set to gather for a candlelit vigil outside Parliament. The BMA is also urging campaigners to take part in online action to email their MP signalling their opposition, and to use Twitter and Facebook to voice their concerns.

BMA Council Chairman, Dr Hamish Meldrum, has also written to all MPs saying the reforms still present an “unacceptably high risk to the NHS” warning them it threatens its ability to operate “effectively and equitably, now and in the future”.

Despite the amendments following recommendations from the NHS Future Forum, the Association still believes the Bill should be withdrawn or be subject to further substantial changes.

In his letter, Dr Meldrum continues to warn of the “inappropriate and misguided reliance on ‘market forces’ to shape services” with the Bill creating “a more central role for choice without a full consideration of the consequences” and the “potential to destabilise local health economies”.

There are several specific areas of concern the BMA has on the Bill including:

  • The limit Foundation Trusts (FTs) can generate from private patients
  • The proposed ‘Quality Premium’ for commissioners
  • Forcing all NHS Trusts to become FTs
  • That the Bill reflects an intention that any increase in patients’ choice of providers should not be given a higher priority than tackling health inequalities and promoting integrated care
  • Ensuring there is a robust and transparent process which has the full confidence of the profession when it comes to how ‘failing’ FTs are dealt with
  • The lack of satisfactory assurance that the Secretary of State will have ultimate responsibility for the provision of a comprehensive health service whilst also allowing other bodies, like the new NHS Board and Clinical Commissioning Groups, day-to-day operational independence.

In a response to the concerns over the responsibility of the Secretary of State, the DH says “the Secretary of State will continue to be responsible – as now – for promoting a comprehensive health service. The NHS will always be available to all, free at the point of use and based on need and not on the ability to pay. To say otherwise is absolute nonsense”.

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