It is an understatement to say that it is disappointing that the government have bulldozed the NHS Bill through the House of Commons and through the House of Lords. It will now go into law and change the NHS in the worst possible way.
I am not arguing that the NHS should stay the same as it is now. It needs to respond to opportunities that come with medical and technological advances. The services have changed greatly as we've learnt how to help people who've had a stroke - to save lives and help people make a full recovery. For stroke victims, King’s College Hospital is one of the best places to be cared for as a result of these changes. And the NHS has transformed how we deal with accidents and emergencies. Again, King’s has led in this field too. And we need to change services to care for the growing number of older and disabled people.
So I don't want the NHS to stand still - far from it. But I am totally opposed to what the government is doing on the NHS. Their massive structural change - which a former head of the NHS said was so large "it could be seen from space" - is going to cost billions of pounds at the very time that the NHS is being told to make cost savings and efficiencies. What a shame that the local health service is being told to make cost savings at the very time the government is forcing them to spend £20million on the local reorganisation.
And the Bill will sacrifice the NHS to more and more private health care because hospitals will get more of their funds from private patients - instead of from the NHS. The government have raised the cap on the amount of income NHS hospitals can raise from private patients to 49%. That means half of all beds in King’s, Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospitals and half the time of NHS-trained doctors and nurses, set aside for private patients. This will inevitably mean NHS patients having to wait longer.
Simon Hughes and the Lib Dems have said they oppose Tories’ NHS changes, but the Tory Bill would not have passed this week without the backing of the Lib Dems. Simon Hughes did not have to vote for the Tories’ NHS Bill, but he did. And he has supported the NHS reforms at every vote in the House of Commons.
Simon Hughes has ignored doctors, nurses and health experts who opposed the changes. He has ignored people in Southwark who are against the changes. He’s even ignored Lib Dem party members who voted against the Bill at their spring conference.
Labour have promised to fight to protect the NHS despite the Bill and have pledged to repeal it at the first opportunity.