Winchester Liberal Democrats take leading role in ‘rebellion’ against coalition NHS policy

Winchester Liberal Democrats have joined the ‘rebellion’ against the coalition government’s NHS policies recently reported in the Guardian.

This sets them directly in opposition to their local coalition partner, Conservative MP for Winchester, Steve Brine MP, who is a member of the Public Bill Committee for the Health and Social Welfare Bill in the House of Commons – one of the small group of MPs  responsible for line-by-line scrutiny of the bill – who has, so far, voiced no criticism of the Government’s plans.

The Chair of Winchester Liberal Democrats, Graham Winyard, is a former Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England and Medical Director of the NHS:

I have seen first hand the huge disruption that this sort of reorganisation causes. Imposing massive and flawed reforms on an NHS facing years of level funding is extremely risky. I still find it hard to believe that Ministers think this is remotely achievable without damaging the very services they wish to improve.

The local party has put its name behind  an amendment to a motion proposed by Minister for Health, Paul Burstow MP, at the party’s Spring Conference in Sheffield this coming weekend.  The changes sought include:

  • an end to the proposed secrecy about the spending of NHS funds, as can take place with the proposed GP consortia
  • the complete ruling out of any competition based on price to prevent loss-leading corporate providers under-cutting NHS tariffs, and to ensure that healthcare providers only “compete” on quality of care
  • keeping the NHS as the preferred provider, only allowing new private providers where there is no risk of “cherry-picking” which would destabilise or undermine the existing NHS service relied upon for emergencies and complex cases, and where the needs of equity, research and training are met
  • NHS commissioning being retained as a entirely public function in full compliance with the Human Rights Act and Freedom of Information laws, using the skills and experience of existing NHS staff rather than the sub-contracting of commissioning to private companies
  • The continued separation of the commissioning and provision of services to prevent conflicts of interests
  • An NHS, responsive to patients needs, based on co-operation rather than competition, and which promotes quality and equity not the market

Martin Tod, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for Winchester in the 2010 General Election has also backed the amendment and has sent a joint email with Dr Evan Harris, former MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, to over 1,000 former Parliamentary Candidates, Parliamentarians and local Party Chairs asking them to back the amendment.

Mr Tod commented:

There’s little or no evidence to back the Government’s NHS plans and a whole lot of unanswered questions. How will the enormous cost of reorganisation be borne without cutting front-line services? How can the new organisations running the NHS be held accountable when they can meet in secret and may not have to answer questions from the public? How will they stop cherry-picking of easy cases which could put the future of our local hospitals at risk? Is the Government prepared to put measures in place that will block NHS privatisation by stealth?Andrew Lansley, the Conservative Secretary of State for Health, is making bland promises while putting in place policies which could wreck the NHS as we know it.  It’s vital that these plans are changed.

 


Contact:

Martin Tod, 07887 986048, martin@martintod.org.uk

Dr Graham Winyard, 07867 538262, grahamwinyard@gmail.com

Dr Evan Harris, 07867 538896, drevanharris@gmail.com

Notes:

The Guardian report is at http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/mar/04/liberal-democrats-rebels-nick-clegg-nhs-reforms (Liberal Democrat rebels to challenge Clegg over ‘damaging’ NHS reforms).

Details of the Public Bill Committee reviewing the Health and Social Welfare Bill are at http://www.nhsconfed.org/priorities/Health-white-paper/health-social-care/Pages/Public-Bill-Committee.aspx

The amendment reads:

Conference recognises however that all of the above policies and aspirations can be achieved without adopting the damaging and unjustified market-based approach that is proposed.

Conference therefore reaffirms existing Liberal Democrat health and localism policies which call for healthcare commissioning to be carried out by locally elected health boards or local authorities, with the ability to vary a fair local tax in order to invest in local healthcare services;

Conference regrets that some of the proposed reforms have never been Liberal Democrat policy, did not feature in our manifesto or in the Coalition agreement, which instead called for an end to large-scale top-down reorganisations.

Conference therefore calls on Liberal Democrats in Parliament to seek to amend the Health bill to provide for

  1. more democratically accountable commissioning
  2. a much greater degree of co-terminosity between local authorities and commissioning areas
  3. no decision about the spending of NHS funds to be made in private and without proper consultation, as can take place by the proposed GP consortia
  4. the complete ruling out of any competition based on price to prevent loss-leading corporate providers under-cutting NHS tariffs, and to ensure that healthcare providers “compete” on quality of care
  5. the restoration of the NHS as the preferred provider, only allowing new private providers where there is no risk of “cherry-picking” which would destabilise or undermine the existing NHS service relied upon for emergencies and complex cases, and where the needs of equity, research and training are met
  6. NHS commissioning being retained as a entirely public function in full compliance with the Human Rights Act and Freedom of Information laws, using the skills and experience of existing NHS staff rather than the sub-contracting of commissioning to private companies
  7. The continued separation of the commissioning and provision of services to prevent conflicts of interests
  8. An NHS, responsive to patients needs, based on co-operation rather than competition, and which promotes quality and equity not the market

 

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One Response to Winchester Liberal Democrats take leading role in ‘rebellion’ against coalition NHS policy

  1. Mark Aitken says:

    Whilst the root and branch of the Liberal Democrats appear to be trying to distance themselves from the planned Coalition’s Health Reforms, their alternatives ougth to be more than just a “yaboo” response. The way in which the NHS currently delivers healthcare has been poisoned by a succession of destructive bureaucratic interventions formulated by the invisible dealings of the civil servants in Whitehall. The politicians are just the mouthpieces of this infamous mafia-like organisation. How else was it possible for David Nicholson and his bureaucronies to start implementing the Bill’s aspirations before the Bill has even completed the Parliamentary obstacle course?
    The Lib/Dems say they want to retain the current commissioning process, which has caused so much antagonism amongst healthcare professionals (paras 6 & 7). In Scotland the Purchaser/Provider split was ditched after devolution and their performance is now superior to that available in England. What the current commissioning process in England lacks is clinical accountability, because those with extensive experience in this essential part of decision making are virtually excluded from the boards of PCTs and SHAs. The creation of GP Consortia merely turned that situation on its head. Procuring the best deals for the NHS requires more than just a medical degree. Furthermore, if the only clinical advice comes from doctors in Primary Care then it is unlikely that they would favour NHS hospital based solutions over their own. Clearly, this rebranded “Commissioning Authority” requires a significant input from those in Secondary Care. Unfortunately, there still remains the problem of “conflict of interest” because practising doctors are likely to put personal and departmental aspirations ahead of the healthcare issue being addressed.
    This impasse could be solved by recruiting that essential and necessary clinical advice from retired clinicians who have spent a lifetime at the sharp end in the NHS. Such a denouement would serve to scotch the growing public impression that doctors have become just another bunch of money-grubbing clock-watchers.

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