"The NHS was 68 years old this week. We need to make sure it's there for all who need it for the next 68 years too” says Margaret Greenwood MP.
And next Wednesday 13th July Greenwood - the Labour MP for Wirral West - will present a bill on the NHS to Parliament which aims to get the NHS off “life support” and secure its future.
The Bill – designed by lawyers and leading NHS experts including Professor Allyson Pollock - has already been backed by most of the leading NHS campaign organisations, including Keep Our NHS Public, the Socialist Health Association, Unite the Union (which represents over 100,000 health workers) and 38 Degrees, as well as being overwhelmingly endorsed by the British Medical Association last month.
Margaret Greenwood MP said it was a “privilege” to present the Bill to the House of Commons, adding:
“Doctors, nurses and campaigners across the country have been working tirelessly to combat the privatisation of the NHS that we are seeing. The Health and Social Care Act 2012 provided the framework for the privatisation of the National Health Service. As a result we are seeing big private health care companies snapping up contracts, taking them from existing NHS providers. This means that money that should be spent on health care is going into the pockets of shareholders. It's just plain wrong.”
So what does the Bill do? In a nutshell, it sets out to stop the privatisation of the NHS and return it to its founding principles, removing competition and the profit motive as a driver of policy and replacing them with the public service ethos which has been the hallmark of the NHS since its foundation.
Campaigners point out that the move is far from impossible – Scotland did something similar and patient satisfaction and value for money have risen as a result. But they also see that the alternative is unimaginable – that unless the expensive, bureaucratic, commercially driven system crippling the NHS is properly tackled, the drive towards drastic frontline cuts and also towards charges or ‘co-payments’ will only become more inevitable.
Tony O’Sullivan, Chair of Keep Our NHS Public (and a consultant paediatrician closely involved in the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign, told OurNHS openDemocracy: “Successive governments have changed the NHS from a public service based on social solidarity to a wasteful marketplace open to competition and privatisation.”
"Currently NHS hospitals are allowed to make up to 49% of their money from private patients. It's is a national scandal. Nobody voted for that, and yet that's exactly what the Coalition government passed the law to do. The NHS Bill makes the case for a planned, state-managed health service, and reinstates the duty of the Secretary for State of Health to provide and secure a comprehensive National Health Service in England.”
The Bill is what is known as a Ten Minute Rule Bill and has cross party support.
It is hoped that the bill will progress to a second reading later in the year. The Bill was previously presented in the last parliamentary session but ran out of time.
Professor Allyson Pollock, one of the experts behind the Bill, told OurNHS “The NHS is being dismantled. Only an Act of parliament will reinstate it. This is why we call on MPs to support the Bill next week.”
Keep Our NHS Public Chair O’Sullivan agrees. He pointed out how if the NHS doesn’t change path, it faces further disruptive reorganisation anyway - with England recently divided into 44 ‘footprint’ areas each pushing through drastic cuts to local hospital provision, and further privatisation of what remains, under the dubiously named ‘Sustainability and Transformation Plans’. According to O’Sullivan, this current cuts-driven re-organisation “endangers patient safety and ends equitable access”. He concludes “This Bill has to be supported if we are to win back the NHS before it is lost forever.”
Update: We understand there will be a rally outside parliament between 12.30 and 2pm next Wednesday (13th) in support of the 10 minute rule bill, all welcome. Please check back here or with NHS Bill campaign or Keep Our NHS Public for details.