Thursday, 8 September 2011

MPs back Health Bill despite BMA warnings

The Health Bill is one step closer to becoming law, after MPs backed the reforms in a key vote on Wednesday

A total of 316 MPs voted in favour of the Health Bill yesterday, while 251 voted against the changes. Despite attempts by Labour to convince them to rebel, just four Liberal Democrat MPs out of 57 voted against the Bill. The Bill will now move to the Lords where it will be further debated. Many are hopeful that the Lords will provide an opportunity to get the Health Bill substantially amended.

Ahead of the Health Bill vote, prime minister David Cameron claimed in the Commons that the RCGP supported the NHS reforms, sparking an angry rebuttal from College chairwoman Dr Clare Gerada. Days earlier, the RCGP and BMA had joined forces to warn that the Health Bill could destabilise the NHS.

Speaking before the vote, Labour shadow health secretary John Healey told MPs that the government was in ‘denial about the damage it is doing to the NHS and the scale of criticism and opposition to it'. He said: ‘This government and this Bill are giving health reform a bad name. The Bill is unwanted and unnecessary. It is reckless to force through the biggest reorganisation in NHS history at the same time as finances are tight and pressures on the health service are growing.’

But health secretary Andrew Lansley said the reforms aimed to ‘safeguard and strengthen the NHS’. ‘Of course, the Bill has been through a long passage,' he said. 'There have been questions and new ideas, and many concerns and issues have been raised. We have done throughout, and will continue to do, what all governments should do: listen, reflect, then respond and improve.

‘Patients know that it is their doctors and nurses - the people in whom they place their trust - who make the best decisions about their individual care. The Bill is about helping those people to become leaders.

‘It is not about turning medical professionals into managers or administrators, but about turning the NHS from a top-down administrative pyramid with managers and administrators at its zenith into a clinically-led service that is responsive to patients, with management support on tap, not on top.’