MPs table bill to restrict role of commercial companies in NHSBMJ 2015; 350 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h3541 (Published 29 June 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h3541
The NHS Bill 2015, which proposes abolishing competition and restricting the role of commercial companies in the NHS in England, is to be retabled before parliament on Wednesday 1 July.
It will be tabled as a private member’s bill by the Green Party MP Caroline Lucas and is expected to have cross party support from around a dozen sponsors in total.
The bill is based on the NHS Reinstatement Bill that was coauthored in 2014 by Allyson Pollock, professor of public health research and policy at Queen Mary University of London, and Peter Roderick, barrister and senior research fellow at the university’s Centre for Primary Care and Public Health.1
It was first co-tabled as the NHS Bill in March 2015 by Lucas and the now former Liberal Democrat MP Andrew George but fell because of the parliamentary recess. A new version will now be tabled that will include reference to the BMA voting in support of the bill at its annual representative meeting in Liverpool.
The bill sets out plans to reverse changes to the NHS brought about by the Health and Social Care Act 2012, including re-establishing public bodies and public accountability in the NHS. It also proposes abolishing the split of service purchasers from providers first introduced to the NHS by the then health secretary Ken Clarke in 1991.
Although the bill is unlikely to progress, owing to a lack of support from Conservative MPs, campaigners hope that it will act as a springboard to publicise and raise awareness of their concerns over the future of the NHS.
It was boosted by the BMA’s annual representative meeting in Liverpool narrowly passing a motion stating its support of the bill after a debate on Monday 22 June. Proposing the motion, the Lancashire GP David Wrigley said, “In the bill lies a trail of breadcrumbs to take us back to a different era, a time before the Health and Social Care Act, before the NHS was such fertile ground for profiteers, a time when money allocated for patient care wasn’t routinely squandered on futile bidding wars, failed private experiments, a contrived internal market and debilitating PFI [private finance initiative] repayments.”
Some doctors at the meeting spoke against the motion, including the Middlesbrough GP John Canning, who argued that it would lead to another costly reorganisation of the NHS. “The current system isn’t perfect, by any means, but we cannot afford to spend billions on reorganising yet again. It would be an irresponsible, unethical thing to do to waste our money,” he warned.
But in response Wrigley argued, “Those who stand here and oppose the [NHS] bill are arguing for the status quo, for more privatisation. This will send a message about our principled stance of defending our NHS from the disastrous changes that have occurred.”
However, the meeting rejected a separate strand of the motion calling for the BMA to actively lobby government in support of the bill.
Pollock told The BMJ, “The NHS is withering away under the weight of cuts and expensive privatisation, which is why the NHS must be restored and which is why the BMA voted to reinstate the NHS and support the NHS Bill 2015. The medical profession has spoken: it is opposed to privatisation, inefficient contracting, fragmentation, and service closure and calls for an end to the external and internal market.”
Lucas, the Green Party’s MP for Brighton Pavilion, said, “My hope is that MPs from across the political divide will come together to back the bill that stands up for the NHS we are all proud of.”
Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h3541
thebmj.com Observations: Why the Queen’s Speech on 19 May should include a bill to reinstate the NHS in England (BMJ 2015;350:h2257, doi:10.1136/bmj.h2257)