I realise that it might appear to be a 'closing the stable gate after the horse has bolted' type of scenario, especially as the government's health changes have survived their final parliamentary test and are set to become law. But I can't help feeling that there's something we can all still do to forestall the seemingly inevitable conclusion.
I suppose, having received treatment through the National Health System (NHS) several times over recent years, I can be forgiven for appearing more focussed on its imminent demise than on other 'cuts' issues.
Most people would agree that the NHS certainly needs a good sort out, but I fail to see how by sending in the Tory bovver boys who's only experience has been based upon private health care (along with their private education) anything good can come out of this. It would be, for example, something like making Boris Johnson Mayor of London; unthinkable and utterly unworkable! (Ed: Er Dave ....)
As many of you will be aware, over the past year or so I've been working with the Socialist Health Association to raise public awareness about the proposed changes to the NHS. Along with other protest groups, such as 38 degrees, they put up a stiff resistance to the proposed changes and hopefully made a few MPs stop and think before they voted earlier this week.
Both of these groups are still fighting and I still intend creating cartoons for them in order to hammer home the valid points that they are continuing to make. Please click on the following links for more information.
Recent legal advice given to 38 Degrees, the 'Save our NHS' campaign group, makes sobering reading. It states that the government’s changes to the NHS plans could pave the way for a shift towards a US-style health system, where private companies profit at the expense of patient care and those without money go untreated.
Barrister Rebecca Haynes found that the government's plans could pave the way for private healthcare companies and their lawyers to benefit most from changes, not patients. Another barrister, Stephen Cragg, found that we were right to be worried that Andrew Lansley was planning to remove his duty to provide our NHS.
Conservative MPs are being told by their bosses these changes fit with party ideology. But many would be horrified to know that the NHS would be subject to European competition laws and front-line services could be held up with procurement red tape. 38 Degrees are urging people to lobby these MPs who are due to vote on massive changes to our NHS in a few days time.
They state that if enough people email now, it could tip the balance. To find out how to do this, click on this link.
38 Degrees' independent lawyers have identified two major problems in the new legislation:
- The Secretary of State’s legal duty to provide a health service will be scrapped. On top of that, a new “hands-off clause” removes the government's powers to oversee local consortia and guarantee the level of service wherever we live. We can expect increases in postcode lotteries – and less ways to hold the government to account if the service deteriorates.
- The NHS will almost certainly be subject to UK and EU competition law and the reach of procurement law rules will extend across all NHS commissioners. Private health companies will be able to take new NHS commissioning groups to court if they don’t win contracts. Scarce public money could be tied up in legal wrangles instead of hospital beds. Meanwhile, the legislation lifts the cap on NHS hospitals filling beds with private patients.
So who are MPs going to listen to when casting their vote – you, or lobbyists from private health companies? This is our NHS, and it’s up to us to defend it. Email your MP now by clicking on this link.