A chance to protect the NHS?

by Daphne Liddle

A PRIVATE member’s Bill moved by Clive Efford, the Labour MP for Eltham will receive its second reading in the House of Commons. It aims to undo some of the damage done by the Con-Dem Coalition’s 2012 Health and Social Care Act.

Efford’s National Health Service (amended duties and powers) bill aims to stop the increasing the increasing privatisation of our NHS, to protect it from the planned Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and to make the Secretary of State for Health directly responsible for running the NHS.

“The NHS as we know it today will disappear if we continue to allow services to be contracted out to private companies.” explained Efford.

“The Government’s own figures for 2013-14 show that more than £10 billion was spent on the purchase of healthcare from non-NHS bodies. If this is allowed to continue it will seriously undermine the capacity of the NHS to provide services in the future, leaving us at the mercy of the private sector.

“This Bill will halt the rush to privatisation and put patients rather than profits at the heart of our NHS.”

“My Bill will also give Parliament sovereignty over the NHS and will protect it from TTIP which threatens to allow private companies to use the courts to force the wholesale privatisation of the NHS.”

The Bill will:

The Bill has the backing of Labour whips, the unions and health bodies such as the British Medical Association.

But what are its chances of being passed? The highly controversial and unpopular 2012 Health and Social Care Act was passed after the Government was forced to “pause for further consultation” — a purely cosmetic exercise — because of the public outcry against it, and after various sections were batted back and forth between the Commons and the Lords as some of the peers tried to amend the worst parts of it.

It was passed with the full support of Liberal Democrat MPs in defiance of the wishes of their rank and file membership.

Just last week one unnamed Tory minister admitted the 2012 Bill was their “biggest mistake”.

With a general election only a few months away will any of those Lib-Dem MPs — and even a few Tories — feel inclined to redeem themselves by supporting Efford’s Bill?

It is a narrow hope. But it does suggest that even if it is not passed now, the main content of Efford’s Bill should become a high priority for an incoming Labour government in May. This has to give working class voters a much stronger reason to make the effort to vote Labour in May.