Three South West London MPs have joined calls for the government to scrap its plans to pass a new Bill that would reorganise the NHS in England.
Andy Slaughter of Hammersmith, Marsha De Cordova of Battersea and Bell Ribeiro-Addy of Streatham were part of the calls made on 26 October outside the Houses of Parliament.
The action comes after a poll by We Own It, the campaign for the public ownership of public services, showed that 8 in 10 people want the government to fix waiting lists and ensure that people can see their GPs face-to-face as their top priority.
The Health and Care Bill is expected to enter the next stage of its passage on 9 November, following its second reading on 14 July.
The Bill will divide the NHS in England into 42 areas named Integrated Care Systems (ICSs), each with their own budget and a board to oversee the delivery of health services for the area.
Campaigners and trade unionists say the Bill will allow private companies to sit on the boards that oversee the new ICSs and make decisions about how the budget is spent.
They claim that by repealing Section 75 of the 2012 Health and Social Care Act, which requires that all contracts be put through a competitive tendering process, the Bill will open the NHS to more crony contracts.
Labour MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy said: “From faulty PPE to the failure of test and trace, the pandemic has shown the disastrous consequences of placing essential public health services in the hands of for-profit companies whose priority is to shareholders.
“The recent sell-off of twenty South London surgeries – including three in Streatham – to an American multinational health corporation is a reminder that the government has used the pandemic to push ahead with its privatising agenda.”
Polls also show that 70% of the public are worried that the Bill will cause the NHS to give out these contracts without scrutiny – particularly to private companies.
60% of those polled say they want the Bill to be amended to make NHS Trusts and Foundation Trusts the default providers of all NHS services.
Ribeiro-Addy added: “The money we spend on healthcare should go into the services we all use, not into the coffers of corner-cutting contractors and companies with close government ties.
“I was proud to join campaigners from across London to make it clear that I will continue to oppose the Health and Care Bill, which would accelerate this process.”
Further local actions took place in more than 20 constituencies over the weekend, with locals delivering letters to their MP’s offices urging them to oppose the new Bill.
The protest was organised by We Own It and Just Treatment, a patient-led group that represents the voice of patients. I
it was supported by Unite the Union, the British Medical Association and the National Pensioners Convention.
Johnbosco Nwogbo, lead campaigner at We Own It, said: “This Bill will put on steroids the government’s corrupt contracting we’ve seen during the pandemic.
“With the Secretary of State for Health set to receive increased powers in this Bill, Sajid Javid will be enabled to simply hand out contracts to party donors and friends without any kind of scrutiny”.
He added: “It’s clear that a lot of MPs are really worried about how this bill will change our NHS and open it to being used as a profit-making venture for profit-greedy private companies within it.
“We just hope more of them, including Conservatives, will speak out.”
Hope Worsdale, digital comms and campaign lead from Just Treatment said: “We know that the government’s plans will fail patients across the country – so now we need even more people to get involved in ramping up the pressure on their MPs to reject the bill.”
You can track the progress of the Health and Care Bill here.
Photographs by David Sandison, www.dsandison.com