27 Feb 2013

Act now to save NHS

Caroline from Stroud Against the Cuts produced this excellent  briefing on what we can all do...

Right now, the government is trying to sneak through secondary legislation (under Section 75 of the Health & Social Care Act) to force virtually every part of the NHS to be opened up to *compulsory* competitive markets, open to the private sector.  We have just over a month to stop them, and we need to start straight away.

As you know, Stroud Against the Cuts, with help from many, fought a successful campaign to overturn the outsourcing of Gloucestershire's nine hospitals - and to keep them in the NHS without tendering (in October 2012 - ie, even after the Act).  BUT the barrister in that case, David Lock QC, has told us that this option will no longer be possible for anyone else, if these regulations go through.

These regulations (SI 257) are likely to be the final straw for many of our NHS hospitals and clinics, already damaged by too much costly marketisation and cuts.

Parliament does not normally even debate or vote on this type of regulation - but it is possible.  Even those Lib Dems who supported the Health & Social Care Act should be very concerned as the regulations break the reassurances offered to parliament and to the local Clinical Commissioning Groups, that the Act allowed local choice about when to use competition. For example Andrew Lansley promised doctors that "commissioners, not the Secretary of State and not regulators – should decide when and how competition should be used to serve... patients interests" (see briefing for other examples of the promises that were made). But these new regulations do not allow local freedom to decide when to use competition, at all.

These regulations were laid down on 13th February and will become law on 1 April unless all MPs who care about the NHS first insist on a debate and vote, and then vote them down. Over the next few days the political parties are going to be considering their next moves.

Please take time now to.....

a) sign this petition to call for a full debate, vote and defeat - go here.

b) urgently email your local MP to ask them to ensure these regulations are debated, voted on and defeated in parliament.  Send them the Keep Our NHS Public briefing, attached  (or at this pdf here) & use the bullet points in the briefing to help you explain to your MP why you are so concerned.

In Gloucestershire, also tell your MP that these regulations will make what we fought for and won here in Gloucestershire, impossible for others. The government wrote to Gloucestershire MPs during our campaign (after the Health & Social Care had passed) to clear up misunderstandings and to say that in-house commissioning between NHS bodies was still a perfectly lawful option for local people to choose - and 96% of us then did, forcing the PCT to listen. These regulations would rule out that option for others. Where is the local 'choice', then?

c) ask others to do the same!  please spread this message widely to friends, colleagues, any groups you are in, and write to the newspapers using the points in the attached briefing, along with your own experience.

d) you could also email the clerk of the house of lords committee on statutory instruments which will be examining the regulations shortly, raising concerns about the implications of these regulations and asking them to recommend they get a full debate in the Lords.  Their email address is seclegscrutiny@parliament.uk. I will let you know when I know more about the way the Commons committees operate.

e) you can also read more background here
http://www.hsj.co.uk/news/policy/government-tendering-rules-will-lead-to-big-shake-up-in-services-lawyers-warn/5055338.article?blocktitle=Latest-News&contentID=782 (subscriber only)

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