Competition NOT better for NHS: Lib Dem peers seek to rewrite key sections of Health and Social Care Bill
Lib Dems are opposed to both increasing competition and giving 'favours' to the private sector Royal College of Physicians calls emergency meeting on whether to ballot its members over bill
Ministers are braced for further controversy over the Government's controversial NHS reforms as the Health and Social Care Bill resumes its troubled passage through the House of Lords.
Liberal Democrat peers are seeking to re-write key elements of Health Secretary Andrew Lansley's plans through a series of detailed amendments to be debated in the upper chamber this week.
NHS treatment transformation Andrew Lansley (right) is facing heated criticism from a number of Royal Colleges who have called for the NHS Bill to be withdrawn
The changes – which are said to have the tacit backing of the Lib Dem leadership – include measures to strip out proposals to increase competition in the NHS.
At the same time, the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) – representing hospital doctors – is meeting today in emergency session to discuss whether to formally ballot the views of its 26,000 members on the legislation.
An online poll conducted by doctors opposed to the reforms found 92.5 per cent of RCP members believed they should now be abandoned, according to The Observer which was given access to the findings.
A spokeswoman for the college said: 'The RCP continues to have serious concerns about the reforms and has been lobbying vigorously for changes to the Bill since its publication.'
If the RCP were to come out against the legislation, it would bring it into line with the other royal colleges in calling for the bill to be withdrawn, leaving ministers looking even more isolated.
HEALTH AND SOCIAL CARE BILL AS IT STANDS…
152 PCTs in England will be scrapped along with the ten strategic
health authorities. In preparation PCTs have merged into 50 clusters and
SHAs have formed four super hubs
GPs to take over management of 80% of NHS budget from April 2013. Some consortia already set upNational board will oversee the new system as well as taking
charge of specialists services. Will be headed by Sir David Nicholson who is current NHS chief executivePatients allowed to choose where they are treated – including free private care if necessaryCouncils and public given new powers to stop local A&E and maternity units closingFar more NHS operations and treatments provided by private companies and charities
Hit squads of matrons sent into hospitals to check on elderly care
Mr Lansley has tabled more than 100 amendments to the
bill, which has been passed by the Commons, in an effort to push it
through the Lords
In a further blow, former NHS chief executive Lord Crisp yesterday denounced the reform plans as 'a mess', saying they were 'unnecessary, confused and confusing'.
David Cameron has made clear that he intends to see the legislation through, warning last week of “chaos” in the NHS if the reform proposals were abandoned now.
Chancellor George Osborne said at the weekend that it was essential the changes went through with the NHS was to be affordable in future while meeting the needs of an ageing population.
But with Lib Dem activists threatening a revolt at the party's spring conference next month, Labour sought to keep up the pressure – urging Lib Dem peers to vote with them to kill off the bill altogether.
While that looks unlikely, Labour leader Ed Miliband said that it was still not too late for Mr Cameron to think again and abandon the legislation.
'Throwing all the pieces of our NHS up in the air and seeing where they land is not the right way to go about reform,' he wrote in an article in The Times.
'Only political pride is preventing this Prime Minister from dropping his bill. If he ploughs on, he will not only destroy trust in himself, he will also prevent the real change that the NHS needs.'
Baroness Jolly, the Liberal Democrat co-chair for health, said there were areas of the bill which are 'seriously flawed'.
However, she admitted the health service needed to change as people were living longer.
The peer told BBC Radio 5 Live's Stephen Nolan programme: 'What we want is an NHS which is totally sustainable, which is free for everyone as and when they need it.'
Baroness Jolly added that Liberal Democrats were in favour of 'huge chunks' of the bill, but there were 'certain elements' party members wanted to change.
'We are trying really hard to say no more competition and no more favours for the private sector and if they come out we will be delighted,' she said.