A great number of you have been writing to me about your concerns over the Lib Dem-Tory Government’s NHS reforms and the fact that Andrew Lansley has refused to publish the NHS Risk Register.
As you are no doubt aware David Cameron is planning the biggest re-orgnisation of the NHS since it began in 1948. It is an unnecessary, unwanted and damaging reorganisation which threatens to end the NHS as we know it.
It is undeniable that Andrew Lansley’s reforms have increased the risk to safe delivery of NHS services. The information in the Risk Register is absolutely crucial to proper Parliamentary consideration of the Bill and it is highly regrettable that Mr Lansley has refused to release it.
For this reason I have signed EDM 2659 which calls for the publication of the Risk Register and why yesterday I took part in the House of Common’s opposition day debate on the Risk Register. You can watch me delivering my speech by follow this link to the BBC Democracy Live website at the 3:02.50 mark or read the Hansard extract:
Roberta Blackman-Woods (City of Durham) (Lab): I, like my hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Grahame M. Morris), want to begin by paying tribute to the staff of the NHS. I regularly go out with the emergency services and they do a truly amazing job on our behalf in what are becoming much more difficult circumstances. I also want to pay tribute to 38 Degrees and other campaigning organisations, including the British Medical Association and the Royal College of Nursing, for what they have done to give the public more information about these reforms. I do not think that that absolves the Government of their responsibility to publish the risk register, but it is important to put on record the work that those groups have done.
I also want to pay tribute to Anne Hutton and her husband, Neil, two of my constituents who are leading the campaign against the Health and Social Care Bill in Durham. Their street stalls in Durham marketplace are becoming legendary, and I have joined them on a number of occasions. It is clear from the people who visit the stall that the more people know about the Bill, the less they like it. That is probably why the Government will not publish the register: people do not like the opening up of more of the NHS to the private sector, they are worried about fragmentation not only in commissioning but in delivery, and they want answers from the Government that they are clearly not giving.
The second issue that people raise is that they simply cannot understand why the Government are wasting money on a top-down reorganisation of the health service when we are living in such difficult economic times and the NHS is being starved of the resources it needs to meet need locally.
The third issue is that there is absolutely no mandate for either political party in the coalition to undertake such a reorganisation. Unlike those on the Government Front Bench, I have been out and about, talking to people about the reforms. That has included attending consultation events held by shadow GP consortia. The lack of information on the risk of moving to new commissioning arrangements has been a key feature of these discussions, however, as has been the likely negative impact on health outcomes of the fragmentation of services. People are getting increasingly angry that they are being asked to give an opinion on GP consortia and new commissioning arrangements without having access to information that will help them make an informed decision.
It will not have gone unnoticed by my constituents—many have written to me, just as many have written to other hon. Members—that Ministers on the Government Front Bench have today sought only to rubbish Labour’s excellent record on the NHS, rather than explaining why they will not publish the register. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Winchester (Steve Brine) is not in his place, because I wanted to take him to task. I think he insulted those of my constituents who have written to me by saying that they were simply jumping on a bandwagon. Many of them have real concerns about the Bill that should be addressed, rather than the people who write to MPs being rubbished.
I am pleased that the parties in government have raised the issue of Labour’s record, which I shall address in the short time remaining. We are proud of our
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record. We employed about 90,000 additional nurses and 40,000 extra doctors, and we built more than 100 additional hospitals. That is a good record. In my area we have a new hospital. In 2006, 94% of people were having their operations done in less than 13 weeks, but that waiting time is going up, with 90% now having them done in 18 weeks. Unfortunately, all that very necessary input into the NHS did not reduce health inequalities enough, but we did hit the target for the north-east of reducing health inequalities by 10%. I am really concerned that by not publishing the register we simply will not know how these reforms will exacerbate health inequalities.”
Aneurin Bevan once said “The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it,” well my Labour colleagues and I intend to fight for it. David Cameron has no democratic mandate for this Health Bill. It wasn’t in his manifesto and it wasn’t in Nick Clegg’s either. The public never voted for it and healthcare professionals are fearing it. The fight for the future of the NHS is upon us and I urge concerned people across the country to join our ‘Drop the Bill’ campaign by signing our petition at www.dropthebill.com and getting everyone you know to do the same.
Labour’s five top reasons for dropping the Bill are:
1) The Bill will break up the NHS and create an unfair postcode lottery. With no national standards, there will be widespread variation in the treatments available on the NHS. In some areas people may have to go private to get services available elsewhere.
2) The Bill risks rises in waiting times and a two-tier NHS. It scraps the cap on hospitals treating private patients at the same time as watering down guarantees on NHS waiting time. This means local hospitals will be free to treat more private patients and make the NHS patients wait longer.
3) The Bill turns the NHS into a full-blown commercial market, putting competition before patient care. It allows private companies to cherry-pick quick profits, potentially forcing local hospitals to go bust. Hospitals could even be fined for working together.
4) The Bill undermines the bond of trust between doctors and patients. It creates conflicts of interest where financial incentives could interfere with medical decisions. GPs could even get bonuses for rationing your care.
5) The Bill is wasting money and creating bureaucracy. It is unforgiveable to spend £2 billion on a reckless re-organisation when the NHS needs every penny it can get for patient care. Nearly £1 billion is being wasted on pay-offs for managers, only for many of them to be re-employed as consultants.
The ‘Drop the Bill’ campaign, at www.dropthebill.com, aims to show the full scale of opposition to the Government’s plans. It will unite patients, NHS professionals and the public in a final rallying cry to expose Andrew Lansley.