On the day the Prime Minister called a health “summit” at No 10 to try to create the impression of support for the floundering Health and Social Care Bill, demonstrators outside Downing Street made their case against the Bill. (See BBC footage here). Meanwhile the e-petition calling for the Bill to be dropped attracted more than 150,000 signatures and is about to become the best supported of any on the Cabinet Office website.
The demonstrators handed in a letter to the Prime Minister, which pointed out that the summit invitation list
“pointedly excluded key organisations that represent the views of over half a million health professionals. In so doing you make it clear that you are not willing to listen to the views of the very people who you yourself have said are to be significant beneficiaries of the Bill and whose support is key to its implementation.”
Among the excluded groups are the Royal College of GPs and the Faculty of Public Health.
The letter goes on to say that what the excluded organisations have in common is that they believe the Bill will
“transform the NHS from a public service with a duty to provide a universal, comprehensive and equitable service to a market based system of competing private providers with greatly increased risks to patients.”
The loss of the Secretary of State for Health’s legal duty to provide and secure free and comprehensive healthcare for the public, combined with the sheer size and complexity of the Bill, will cause chaos and leave the health system wide open to charging for health care, means testing for public health services and state subsidy for private provision.
Before the General Election, David Cameron repeatedly promised “no more top down reorganisations” of the NHS. He promised that "with the Conservatives there will be no more of the tiresome, meddlesome, top-down re-structures that have dominated the last decade of the NHS", and this pledge was also included in the Coalition agreement.
The Prime Minister does not seem to be listening to public or professional opinion on the Bill. As the letter points out:
“If you were serious about safeguarding and improving the NHS you would listen to these critical voices, all telling you to abandon the bill … But doctors, along with the nurses and allied health professionals are more united each day in their opposition to the bill.”
The No 10 summit has put Mr Cameron at the centre of the row over the Health Bill. The demonstration outside Downing Street is one more sign that he may pay a heavy political price if he continues to give the Bill his support.