Anger as ‘sneak attack’ regulations push NHS privatisation
Legal moves to compel GP-led Clinical Commissioning Groups to put almost all NHS services out to competitive tender are being sneaked through Parliament without proper scrutiny by MPs.
Under Parliamentary procedure, Department of Health drafted regulations on the implementation of Section 75 of the controversial Health & Social Care Act would normally become law 40 days after being laid before parliament – the end of March – unless MPs mount a challenge and force a debate.
Behind the arcane wording and legal phrases the impact of these regulations would be to force CCGs to open up virtually all services to competition, either through competitive tendering or using the Any Qualified Provider market. This move designed to maximise the level of privatisation flies in the face of explicit assurances given in a letter to all GPs a year ago, as Health Secretary Andrew Lansley attempted to defuse widespread fears, and professional opposition to his contentious Bill.
GPs were falsely assured by Mr Lansley on February 16 2012 that:
“You will have the freedom, with your new powers and responsibilities, to commission services in ways that meet the best interests of your patients. You will, for example, be able to determine where integrated services are required and commission them accordingly.
“You will be able to work with existing providers of health and care services to deliver better results for patients […]
“I know many of you may have read that you will be forced to fragment services, or to put services out to tender. This is absolutely not the case."
The government has now quite cynically reneged on these worthless pledges, through regulations which are set to take effect at the end of March, just before CCGs take over responsibility for NHS local commissioning budgets.
The regulator Monitor is given greater powers to step in where it deems these new rules have been broken. The regulations also prevent any attempt to treat existing NHS organisations as “preferred providers”, and they put in place an EU-style “right to establish and provide services”. This compels any CCGs that do opt to use “Any Qualified Provider” to accept all of the providers that have been approved by the Care Quality Commission and Monitor, and include them on the list of providers offered to local patients. It leaves no local discretion for CCGs to assess the quality of services.
In other words, all of the legal and government pressure on CCGs from day one of their full operation is directed to ensure that they open up as many services as possible for private providers.
And behind these increasingly overt uses of home-grown competition law stands the threat of EU competition laws. These are designed to ensure that once any service is privatised, there is no way for the state to take it back into public ownership, since this would impede the sacred ‘right’ of the private sector to compete for those services it sees as profitable, and to cash in on public funding while sharing none of the risks faced by public sector providers.
The National Health Action Party has joined the growing chorus of protest against this sneak attack by ministers on the NHS, which makes a nonsense of repeated assurances by Lansley and by David Cameron that the Tories did not propose to privatise the NHS.
The NHAP is calling on Labour, MPs and all those who oppose the privatisation of the NHS, including Liberal Democrat MPs and peers whose votes were key to the Tories eventually winning a majority for their unpopular Bill in both Houses of Parliament, to challenge these new regulations which have not been openly debated, force a vote, and prevent their passage into law. NHAP joint leader Dr Clive Peedell said:
“We and many others have warned from the beginning that the Tory agenda behind Lansley’s Bill was privatisation, and transforming the NHS from our greatest public service into a competitive market. The Tories have clearly lied even to their coalition partners to get their Bill through and are now determined to sneak through the finishing touches that would kill off our NHS. They must be stopped”.
NHAP’s candidate for the Eastleigh by-election Dr Iain Maclennan said:
“The deceit of the Tories in attempting to get these policies in place without debate is sadly matched by the failure of Labour MPs to respond until campaigners have drawn this to public attention.
“I am standing because we need a party in parliament that will fight tooth and nail to hold on to the values of the NHS and fight consistently for its restoration. This back-door procedure shows how rotten our Parliamentary democracy has become. It’s time voters made clear they won’t stand for it any longer.”
FOR FURTHER DETAILS:
Dr Clive Peedell mobile: 07990 520475; email: email@example.com
Ann McGauran (press liaison) : 07710 099635; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
NOTE TO EDITORS: The National Health Action party was launched last November. Further details are available from the website www.nationalhealthaction.org.uk