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‘We fight on to defend the NHS in England’

The coalition’s Health and Social Care Bill is enacted despite deep public unease and unprecedented opposition from medical professionals. Campaigners fight on

Last night the House of Commons voted the Health and Social Care Bill through at 10.15pm, spending less than six hours debating the 357 amendments made in the Lords.

The Labour motion requiring disclosure of the risk register (a secret document which holds details of the real and predictable risks arising from the Bill) was lost by 328 to 246 votes. Two LibDems — Greg Mulholland and Adrian Sanders — voted with Labour, and three abstained. Most of the Lords amendments passed and the government won most by about 80 to 90 votes as the bulk of the Lib Dems voted with the government.

Andrew George, Greg Mulholland, Adrian Sanders and John Pugh sometimes voted against or abstained. The amendments were grouped so it would take hours to work out the rationale of these votes. The rest ignored their party conference decision and voted with the government.

I want to thank everyone involved in the campaign against the Health Bill. It has been a remarkable campaign, uniting doctors, nurses and health professionals with the general public. It has been highly successful in exposing the myths and lies peddled by politicians trying to hoodwink the public.

This is a terrible Bill. It will damage patient care. It will waste precious public money on an unaccountable and more complicated bureaucracy and legal costs as private providers fight for thousands of healthcare contracts. It will damage the health of the most vulnerable patients and their communities. If it is not scrapped as soon as possible it will destroy the National Health Service, so valued and loved by those who work in it and those who depend on it. 

Plans are already in train for a major campaign to save the National Health Service that will run at a national and local level until the next General Election and beyond. There will be hundreds of battles to be fought across the country in the next few years, as Clinical Commissioning Groups struggle to deal with a morass of contracts and the overstretched Care Quality Commission (CQC) try to 'kitemark' services, as predatory private healthcare companies and management consultants scramble to pick the bones of the NHS, and as dedicated healthcare professionals fight against the odds to continue to provide a comprehensive, high quality and free service to the public. 

As more evidence emerges of the dodgy financial dealings of the private health care companies and the links between those in the Lords and Commons with private health care corporations, those in the general public who had not understood what was happening to our NHS will become more angry and involved in the battle to Keep Our NHS Public.

Thanks to all of you in Keep Our NHS Public. We have fought so hard and so has Dr Clare Gerada of the Royal College of GPs. She is the only leader of a Royal College who has fought against this Bill. The others and the BMA with their policies of ‘critical engagement’ have let down the profession and the public.

Latterly the rank and file of health professionals have realised what this Bill will do to the NHS — as Keep Our NHS Public, the NHS Consultants’ Association and the NHS Support Federation pointed out as soon as the white paper was published in July 2011. Now they are awake we must continue to engage with them. The Guardian interviews with 100 health and allied workers showed how dedicated they are but also how uninformed are the majority about the effects of the Health and Social Care Bill.

As Aneurin Bevan said of the health service, “It will survive as long as there are folk with the faith to fight for it”. The fight goes on, so don’t think Mr Cameron, Mr Clegg and Mr Lansley that because you have rushed this Bill through Parliament without letting peers or MPs see the risk register that we will give up.