Last chance to stop NHS privatisation

Despite constant assurances from ministers as it passed through parliament that NHS reforms would not pose a serious risk to the future of our healthcare system by ushering in full scale privatisation, it has become clear that this is exactly what the government intends to do. However if enough Members take a stand against the government’s reckless corporate agenda, we still have a chance of sustaining a genuinely public National Health Service.

By Caroline Lucas MP (Green Party, Brighton Pavilion)

The impassioned tribute to the National Health Service during last year’s Olympics opening ceremony showed the world that it remains our country’s most valued institution.

So it’s no surprise that the Health and Social Care Act has proved to be one of the most reviled pieces of legislation in recent years – attracting massive opposition from across the medical profession and civil society.

Despite constant assurances from ministers as it passed through parliament that the ‘reforms’ would not pose a serious risk to the future of our healthcare system by ushering in full scale privatisation, it has become clear that this is exactly what the government intends to do.

Back in 2012, Andrew Lansley said that “there is absolutely nothing in the Bill that promotes or permits the transfer of NHS activities to the private sector.”

In a letter to Clinical Commissioning Groups, he said: “I know many of you have read that you will be forced to fragment services, or put them out to tender. This is absolutely not the case.”

Yet the secondary regulation for the Act spells out in no uncertain terms the plan to open up virtually all health services to private bidders in a market supervised by Monitor.

In a disgraceful act of duplicity, regulations published earlier this month under Section 75 of the Health Act create requirements for nearly all commissioning done by the National Commissioning Board (NCB) and Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) to be carried out through competitive markets.

Bringing all current arrangements between NHS bodies and almost all commissioning done by CCGs into a market framework – putting them at the mercy of EU competition law – will gift private providers with unprecedented rights to bid for services.

The regulations make it very difficult to award a contract without a competitive process which, as David Lock QC observes, will have the effect of closing down the existing option of an in-house commissioning process, even if this is what local people want.

They also make whatever Monitor judges to be an “unnecessary” restriction of competition illegal – effectively preventing one state body like the NHS Commissioning Board from making a new arrangement with another.

The government’s belief that it can charge ahead with these terms against the will of the people and against the advice of health professionals is symptomatic of the staggering arrogance we have come to expect from the coalition – not to mention a complete disregard for the democratic process.

There is still time to kill these plans before they pass into law on April 1st. On Monday I put down an urgent ‘prayer’, like an Early Day Motion, calling for the Section 75 regulations to be annulled.

Labour then approached me to ask me to withdraw and retable the motion to allow Ed Miliband to be top signatory, thereby increasing our chances of success thanks to his position as Leader of Opposition – to which I agreed.

The point of the joint motion remains the same: to force a parliamentary debate and allow MPs to vote against the regulations.

With Hunt now under pressure to review the regulations, I urge all MPs who feel strongly about safeguarding the future of the NHS and wish to represent their constituents’ concerns about the impact of healthcare privatisation to sign the joint motion today.

If enough Members seize this eleventh-hour opportunity to take a stand against the government’s reckless corporate agenda, we still have a chance of halting these damaging regulations and sustaining a genuinely public National Health Service which prioritises people’s health over company profits.

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10 Responses to “Last chance to stop NHS privatisation”

  1. Mike Richardson

    Please stop trying to give the impression that there’s one standard pan-‘U’K NHS. Since devolution, Holyrood has kept Scotland’s NHS the closest to what Nye Bevan envisaged, with Wales’ and NI’s fairly close to that point. It’s only here in England that we are experiencing the privatisation of the NHS.

  2. Jonathan Kent

    It’s good to know that issues of party can be put to one side for a greater cause. Caroline deserves great credit for the impetus she’s given this issue, as does Ed Miliband for picking up the baton and all concerned who support this vital move to save our NHS.

  3. Schwarz

    Congratulations on being the true opposition to moral turpitude in government; not just from the right but the ever-softening left. I hope you succeed in scuppering the ConDem’s despicable backdoor privatisation of the NHS. I wish Labour would buy wholesale into your vision of a better Britain. Lord knows, they don’t seem to have one.

  4. jo Lawbuary

    well done Caroline, and thank you. This is really important.

  5. fed up

    Its time the public forgot the three main parties, and voted for someone NEW, the counrty needed a kick up the backside when thatcher came in, trouble was she never stopped kicking, and is now hated the further north you go, now no jobs, just foreign rubbish.

  6. Philip Leicester

    This is a really good initiative and it’s great to see pluralism alive and kicking in Parliament. Well done Ed and Caroline. But there is such much more we need, collectively, to be saying, about the hegemonic neoliberal discourse which underpins our slow and painful loss of the NHS. We can propose alternative policy solutions as Greens, Labour, and yes even, the non-orange
    book Liberals. But Greens will continue to not get elected, and Labour will continue to be pulled to the right of centre by its pro free-market and ‘keep democracy locked’ wings of the Party unless we all create a new alternative narrative together to challenge the hegemony. We’re working on this in Loughborough (, others are in Derby (, and probably everywhere (Compass, LFF). Where do we synthesise this?

    Here’s my starter for part of the new narrative: The Tories are selling everything to vulture capitalists, to be stripped bare; we will all end up paying more for services and the Tories will pretend they’ve reduced taxes.

  7. patricia braiden

    hello Caroline well done on this joint motion, incidentally has anyone asked the health minister what happened to the midwifes and the alcohol company who pledged 6 million to the 50/50 fund,this was during andrew langleys short time as health sec, there was a great media hype at the time but nothing since the alcohol company recently published great profits but no mention of the midwifes in my view the attraction for corporate social involvement seems to be about more than just british public funds, world health and european funds are the target and the cabinet seem to have executive positions within the corporates bidding for the contracts, there is a level of complacency and a pathway to corruption of public funds

  8. Richard Powell

    Caroline Lucas for PM.

  9. Newsbot9

    Why yes, we can have higher food and power bills. Woo!

  10. Jack Johnson

    Good job allowing Ed to be lead signortary, getting it done is more important than

    grandstanding alone.We have too much in common for that.It’s time that the Parliamentary

    Scrutiny Committee inquired how Tory ministers and MPs have a financial interest in the
    privatization of our NHS The evil of corruption must be stamped out.

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