Health

MPs to debate reversing NHS reforms

Doctor rushing into theatre Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption The bill would abolish the split between commissioners and providers

MPs are to debate a Green Party bid to reverse key elements of the government's health reforms.

A private members' bill debate on Wednesday will be led by Green Party MP Caroline Lucas.

It calls for the purchaser-provider split within the NHS to be abolished and the role of private companies to be restricted.

But the Department of Health said it had "no intention" of repealing the legislation.

With only a few weeks left before parliament is dissolved for the general election it is highly unlikely that the bill will make much progress.

But campaigners who have drawn up the draft legislation say the fact it will be debated in the Commons is an important step.

They say they will be challenging candidates from all parties during the campaign to say whether they would support the bill.

'Fragmentation' risk

It aims to abolish the split of the NHS into purchasers, including the GP-led commissioning groups which buy services locally - and providers made up of hospitals and other health trusts.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Caroline Lucas says the NHS is becoming "fragmented"

The bill also attempts to restrict the role of commercial companies in the NHS, as well as setting out plans to reinstate an obligation for the NHS to provide listed services across England.

The proposed legislation is based on an NHS Reinstatement Bill drawn up by campaigners including Allyson Pollock, professor of public health research and policy at Queen Mary, University of London.

They argue that their planned reform would go further than a private members bill aimed at curbing the private sector's role in the NHS introduced by Labour MP Clive Efford.

Caroline Lucas said: "Our NHS is being dismantled piece by piece. A fragmented, market-based structure isn't the 'national' service that so many people fought for so courageously.

"It mustn't be reduced to a set of transactions, contracts and bidding wars that hollow it into little more than a logo - and waste resources that could be spent on front-line patient care."

The bill is backed by Liberal Democrat MPs John Pugh and Andrew George, who were vocal opponents of the Health and Social Care Act during its passage through Parliament.

The reforms covered by the act took effect in April 2013, including the creation of clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) headed by GPs.

Private provision

A Department of Health spokesman said: "We have no intention of repealing the Health and Social Care Act which has not only put power in the hands of local doctors and nurses, but is also saving the NHS at least £1bn every year."

The government has argued that the increase in private provision of services to the NHS increased faster under Labour than under the coalition.

Ministers also say there is no obligation on clinical commissioning groups to put services out to tender.

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