The Health and Social Care Bill has now passed, largely unchanged, through the report stage in the House of Lords, and on Tuesday survived by 314 votes to 260 a Labour motion in the House of Commons to scrap it. Despite widespread opposition from doctors, nurses, other NHS workers and the general public, the NHS ‘reforms’ that prioritise competition over quality of care look set to be implemented.
It’s tempting to point the finger of blame at the Lib Dems.
Campaigners at their spring conference put forward an emergency motion calling on the party to drop its support for the bill, but Lib Dems in both houses have helped to push it through parliament, even though a top-down structural reform of the NHS was explicitly ruled out by the coalition agreement in 2010.
In a letter sent to Lib Dem members before the conference, Andy Burnham wrote:
The truth is Labour’s narrow political interests are probably best served by the Coalition simply ploughing on with this disastrous Bill. But, even so, I desperately want them to stop.
There might have been a greater chance of stopping the bill if not only the Labour Party but also such bodies as the BMA had expressed more serious opposition to it a year ago.