Cross-parliamentary support for protest against Health and Care Bill: MPs to join campaigners for demonstration outside Parliament

Cross-parliamentary support for protest against Health and Care Bill: MPs to join campaigners for demonstration outside Parliament

Campaigners from Keep Our NHS Public [1] will join with MPs this Wednesday [14th of July] at 12:30 opposite Old Palace Yard, Westminster [2] to protest against the Health and Care Bill in response to it’s second reading in parliament. Members of Parliament from various parties are united in their opposition to legislation which would see a major top-down reorganisation of the NHS involving a loss of local accountability and control, coupled with a massive expansion of centralised powers, and the possibility of a new wave of lucrative NHS contracts to be awarded without competition to private companies.

Shadow Health Secretary Jonathon Ashworth will be speaking at the event on Wednesday in support of the protest, with Labour set to oppose the Bill. He says:

“This top down reorganisation allows the private sector a direct say in the design and delivery of local health care. After a year in which cronyism and outsourcing has seen billions wasted on duff PPE and failing contact tracing, patients and staff know this is the last thing the NHS needs. Labour will be fighting NHS privatisation and urging MPs to vote against this bill.”

While many welcome moves to abolish the 2012 Health and Social Care Act, this Bill scraps only its regulations, requiring services to be put out to competitive tender, without establishing any clear new regulatory structure. In so doing campaigners fear this leaves scope for even more contracts to be awarded to the private sector or those with friends in government. The network of local Clinical Commissioning Groups are to be abolished –  replaced by just 42 regional level “Integrated Care Systems,” (ICSs) giving less local involvement than any time in the last fifty years. ICSs will be led by chairs, appointed by the Health Secretary who cannot be removed, but who will have a decisive voice on other Board appointments, which could bring in private corporations and consultants. The Bill gives 138 new powers to the Health Secretary, not least to intervene as he wishes into local plans to reconfigure services, over the heads of local communities. In addition, each ICS will have a single tightly limited pot of funding and will be under pressure to cut services to fit the budget.

Campaigners have also highlighted concerns over social care, as the new Bill would repeal the section of the Care Act 2014 which requires local authorities to carry out social care needs assessments before a patient is discharged from hospital to social care and community health services. Without this legislation there are fears that patients and service users could be left without access to the appropriate support when leaving the hospital setting.

Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, says:

“The Conservatives have spent a decade undermining and underfunding the health service, and this Government has broken every rule to award dodgy PPE contracts to their mates. No amount of clapping for carers on the doorstep of Number 10 changes the fact that the NHS is not safe in Tory hands. Now they have dreamt up the Health and Care Bill, which risks handing out NHS contracts to private companies without tendering and more privatisation by stealth. We know beyond a doubt that this isn’t how to help our national health service recover from the effects of the pandemic and it’s vital that we continue to defend a publicly owned, funded and run NHS.  The past 18 months have given us all a renewed sense of love and respect for the NHS – and for the principles of public service, compassion and universality which underpin this remarkable institution.”  

Secretary of Keep Our NHS Public and health policy academic, Dr John Lister, says:

“Far from integrating services, this Bill could make it even easier for private companies to cherry-pick NHS contracts with minimal scrutiny or regulation. While we wanted to see competitive tendering halted in the NHS, we wanted the NHS to become the default provider of services, not more of the cronyism we have seen during the pandemic. The Bill will leave local people with less influence than ever over their health services – with all decisions being made by the Health Secretary or by remote ‘Integrated Care Boards’ which will be under his thumb and open to the private sector. It will hugely disrupt and divert the energies of local NHS bosses for at least the next two years and cost large sums in redundancy: it brings new dangers and no real benefit, and must be opposed.”

Spokespeople are available for interview. Contact Samantha Wathen, Press Officer for Keep Our NHS Public [email protected]  or Call/WhatsApp: 0777 6047472

Notes to editors

  1. Keep Our NHS Public is a national independent organisation campaigning for a well-funded, publicly owned and provided NHS
  2. For more information on this event, please see: Further MPs and individuals to be confirmed.