Reject NHS changes, health unions tell MPs

5 Sep 11

The government's NHS reform plans have ‘barely improved’ since the consultation in June and should be rejected, health unions said today.

By Richard Johnstone | 6 September 2011

The government’s NHS reform plans have ‘barely improved’ since the consultation in June and should be rejected, health unions said today.

They were briefing MPs before the Commons began a two-day debate on amendments to the Health and Social Care Bill, which contains the controversial reforms. All the Trades Union Congress affiliated health unions argue that the Bill undermines the founding principles of the NHS.

The debate follows changes announced by the government in June, after a consultation undertaken by the NHS Future Forum earlier this year. The Bill was recommitted to the Commons to consider the 1070 amendments tabled by the government. The majority of the changes, 730, involve changing the name of the commissioning groups that will take over the duties of primary care trusts. The original GP commissioning groups planned were widened to clinical commissioning groups after the government proposed increasing the involvement of other health professionals.

Around 100 amendments will introduce provisions to ensure continued NHS service if any health providers fail as a result of the increased competition, a Department of Health spokeswoman told Public Finance. The remainder are correcting errors.

The government has also promised to remove the April 2013 deadline for the creation of the new commissioning groups, and will phase in the implementation of the ‘any qualified provider’ provisions.

The TUC has said that the new Bill will make the NHS ‘more complex and bureaucratic’, with new structures absorbing funds at a time when the NHS is being asked to find £20bn in efficiency savings.

General secretary Brendan Barber said: ‘Instead of dealing with the real criticisms of its health reforms, the government is simply making the reforms even more complex and bureaucratic. If MPs don’t reject the Bill, we will be calling on peers to use their powers to the full to save the NHS.’

Also ahead of the debate,the NHS Confederation said that senior NHS staff must be given the freedom to drive through radical changes to the way care is provided if the health service is to provide good care in the future.

Mike Farrar, the chief executive of the confederation, which represents all the organisations in the NHS, said its members ‘remain to be convinced that the government's NHS reforms will deliver a coherent system and enable the health service to tackle the most significant challenges it faces today’.

Last week, the confederation warned that ‘closing some hospital services’ might be necessary ‘if the health service is to live within its means’, and Farrar said today: ‘The way the Bill currently stands, there is a risk that the decision-making process to change local services is hindered by new structures, taking away the freedom and clarity local decision-makers need to drive better care for their patients. There is a real danger that the NHS could find itself in paralysis at the very moment it needs to make key decisions about the sustainability of parts of the NHS.’



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