Clegg backs NHS Bill changes to rule out ‘US-style market’
Johnstone | 28 February 2012
Prime Minister Nick Clegg is pushing for further revisions to the Health and Social Care Bill to limit competition
and the role of the private sector in the NHS.
The controversial Bill, which is currently in the House of Lords, has already
been heavily amended. But the Liberal Democrat leader is now focusing on plans
to increase the number of providers in the health service and to give a review role
to the Competition Commission, which regulates markets in the private sector.
letter sent to Liberal Democrat MPs and peers, Clegg said the proposed amendments,
which are likely to be debated later this week, would ‘make sure that the NHS
is never treated like a private industry’ in terms of competition.
end ‘any threat of takeover from US-style healthcare providers by insulating
the NHS from the full force of competition law’, he added.
letter, which was also signed by senior LibDem Baroness Shirley Williams,
called on peers to back the amendments, which include scrapping the role of the
Competition Commission and making foundation trusts seek permission from
governors before carrying out extra private work.
Clegg said the Bill
had already changed from the one that LibDem members had voted against at last
year’s spring conference. Following the government’s consultation on the plans
last summer, the NHS Future Forum had been set up and had recommended a number
of alterations to the legislation.
yesterday that ‘the Bill should be allowed to proceed’ if these final changes were
Commenting on the letter, a Department of Health spokesman said:
‘This Bill has never been about introducing an American-style insurance system.
But of course we will continue to work with peers to provide the assurances
of Clegg’s letter came as it was confirmed hospital doctors are to be given a
vote on whether they back the government’s plans. At an extraordinary general meeting
yesterday, the Royal College of Physicians backed motions calling for the vote.
The college is the
latest health care organisation to consult its members on the government’s
reforms. It follows the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health which last week called
for the government to withdraw the changes. The Royal College of GPs and the British Medical Association have
also called for withdrawal.
At yesterday’s meeting, the 189 attending fellows of the Royal College of Physicians voted by 80% to
16% to survey members on their views on the Bill.
Another non-binding vote, which urged the college to call
publicly for complete withdrawal of the Bill, was agreed by 79%. This will be
sent to the organisation’s council for consideration, RCP president Sir Richard
DoH spokesman said that the Bill had already been ‘strengthened’ by the Future
Forum’s recommendations. These had responded directly to the RCP’s concerns,
including clarity that competition would be used only to benefit patients.
He added: ‘We will continue to work with the royal colleges
throughout the passage of the Health Bill through Parliament.’