Greens today responded to the results of the coalition's ‘listening exercise', after Nick Clegg claimed victory for the Lib Dems in saving the NHS.
Speaking at the Commissioning Show in London this morning, health secretary Andrew Lansley once again tried to justify NHS reform by criticising current performance, for example on cancer survival rates , despite such claims being rebutted months ago . On top of this, there are serious concerns that, while watered down, the role of watchdog Monitor could act as a Trojan horse for future privatisation .
It is important that Lansley's health and social care bill has been challenged, and that health professionals have been given a chance to voice their concerns. However, even with apparent concessions the bill fails to present a sensible vision for improving our national health service.
Caroline Lucas MP said:
"There have been some concessions, but many appear to be contradictory - like allowing ‘any qualified provider' to bid for NHS work while at the same time maintaining that cherry picking will not be allowed. Unsurprisingly, there are no details from the Government about which of their contradictory promises will come out on top. I will be scrutinising the amendments to the legislation and pushing for changes wherever possible, but my fear is that this Bill is still rotten from the core - and riddled with problems that have not really been addressed."
Stuart Jeffery, health spokesperson for the Green Party, said:
"There has been no U-turn by the coalition, just weasel words that appear to change the emphasis of the bill while keeping Andrew Lansley's market reforms on track. He may be planning to de-emphasise competition in Monitor's role, yet he wants the NHS Commissioning Board to ensure choice and competition. Moving the job of promoting competition from one organisation to another is not a change of heart.
"He is now suggesting that Monitor's primary duty is to ‘protect and promote the interests of patients'. That is surely the job of clinicians and politicians, not the role of the current economic regulator for Foundation Trusts. Monitor does not have the skills to do that, as Mid Staffs has shown."
"Despite the spin that tries to quell the fear of privatisation, he wants to ensure that ‘Any Qualified Provider' can make profits at the expense of the NHS. With a market approach to health care, the relentless drive towards privatisation is assured despite the political rhetoric.
"The changes are clearly muddled and designed to mislead. The bill should be binned. We need an NHS based on service provision, not on market principles."
1. See http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/blog/2011/jun/15/nhs-reforms-live-blog
2. See http://www.bmj.com/content/342/bmj.d566.full
3. See http://www.thisiscornwall.co.uk/MP-warns-U-turn-NHS-reforms/story-12766652-detail/story.html