The Health and Social Care Bill was passed in the House of Commons yesterday by 316 votes to 251. Before the vote, during Prime Minister’s Questions, David Cameron said:
We now see the Royal College of General Practitioners, the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Nursing all supporting our health reforms.
He may see it, but that doesn’t mean it’s true. On Monday, the deputy chairman of the General Practitioners Committee said:
The BMA is very clear – the majority of doctors have serious concerns with the Health Bill. We want to improve the NHS, but a wholesale review of the current plan is needed, which is why we are calling for it to be withdrawn.
And the chairs of the BMA, RCGP and RCN were among the signatories to a letter to the Times on Tuesday calling for MPs to reject the Health Bill on the grounds that it would ‘destabilise the NHS’.
Earlier this week, the campaigning blog SpinWatch claimed that it had documents showing that once the Health Bill was passed,
the Department of Health secretly plans to hand over the running of up to 20 NHS hospitals to foreign firms, despite the prime minister’s pledge that there will be ‘no privatisation of the NHS’.
Andrew Lansley denied this of course. ‘Claims that we aim to privatise the NHS amount to nothing more than ludicrous scaremongering,’ he told the Guardian. ‘We have made it crystal clear that we will never privatise the NHS.’
But the government is sending a different message to private healthcare companies. Speaking at an independent healthcare forum yesterday, the health minister and former banker Lord Howe told an audience of private healthcare representatives that the bill would create ‘genuine opportunities’ for private companies to take over from NHS hospitals and clinics.