Tory plans to smash up the NHS reach their final stage in parliament this week.
The Health and Social Care Bill receives its third reading in the House of Lords. If it passes it will become law.
An unprecedented alliance of campaigners, patients, health workers and doctors has spoken out to condemn the bill.
But the Tories are pressing ahead anyway. They know that their plans would be a significant step in replacing universal healthcare with a privatised US-style system.
The spotlight fell on the Tories’ accomplices last weekend as the Liberal Democrats held their spring conference in Gateshead.
Delegates and party members debated the health bill. The party leadership wheeled out bigwigs like Lib Dem peer Shirley Williams to browbeat delegates into supporting a motion backing the government’s health bill.
But in typical Lib Dem fashion delegates decided against fully supporting the bill—while stopping short of actually opposing it.
Some Lib Dems claimed they had stopped the worst aspects of the bill. Lib Dem lords said they had “secured more than 40 key changes” to it.
And Nick Clegg said the problem was that people hadn’t read the bill. If they did, he claimed, they would see it was not about privatisation.
Allyson Pollock, professor of public health at Queen Mary University and a longstanding campaigner against NHS privatisation, demolished these claims.
She noted that despite the Lib Dem amendments, “the fundamental policy behind the bill remains intact—to abolish the NHS”.
Pollock laid out four critical elements of the bill that will wreck the health service as we presently know it:
➊The bill abolishes the government’s legal duty to provide a national health service. This duty will move to “clinical commissioning groups” that will have to rely on private firms such as McKinsey and KPMG.
➋Competition will be enshrined at the heart of the health service. Lib Dem peers voted to support these competition clauses.
➌Private firms will be able to cherrypick services that are profitable, leaving only the more complex and costly healthcare in public hands.
Pollock notes that clause 103 of the bill is about “expressly providing the framework” for cherrypicking.
➍The bill makes it legal to charge for health services that are currently free.
It allows commissioning groups to provide fewer services to fewer people—most likely based on profitability.
And the bill will also establish a legal basis for allowing ministers to exclude some people from healthcare services altogether.
Go to www.allysonpollock.co.uk for a detailed analysis of what’s wrong with the government’s health bill
For reports from Wednesday’s demos go to www.socialistworker.co.uk//art.php?id=27791