Usually, on Fridays I am at home in Sefton Central meeting constituents and working with local groups and businesses.
But on Friday, November 21, I was in parliament to vote for the NHS (amended Duties and Powers) Bill.
The Conservatives fought the last election with a promise not to impose any top-down reorganisation of the NHS. Yet two years later they did exactly that with their 2012 Act which unleashed the full force of the market onto our NHS. The Act requires NHS services to be put out to competitive tender so that any company can bid for the contracts.
The result is that millions of pounds are now being wasted on lawyers and accountants to prepare and assess tenders for NHS services whilst patients are left waiting longer and longer for treatment. Since the Act was passed some 70% of contracts that have been tendered – worth £2.6 billion – have gone to private sector companies.
The 2012 Act also allowed NHS hospitals to generate up to 49% of their income from private patients. In one hospital where private income has increased ten-fold, the number of patients waiting too long for operations each month has risen from 70 in 2010 to 490 now.
Unison has recently revealed that at the same time as the NHS is being opened up to private companies, 64 government MPs, both Tory and Lib Dem, have links to companies with private healthcare interests including some of the most senior members of the cabinet like David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
People need to realise that this pace of privatisation means the NHS will not have the capacity to compete in the future leaving us all at the mercy of the private sector. Decisions are being made in the interests of competition and not NHS patients. The NHS (Amended Duties and Powers) Bill will reverse that which is why it was so important that along with my Labour colleagues, I was in parliament on a Friday rather than working in the constituency.
If it is passed, the Bill will also give Parliament sovereignty over the NHS and will protect it from the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) which threatens to allow private companies to use the courts to force the wholesale privatisation of the NHS.
The Bill will not save the NHS overnight – only the election of a Labour government can do that. But it does give all MPs the opportunity to accept that the 2012 Act has been a disaster and to begin to create an NHS which puts patient care at the centre of all it does, not private profit.