At the Liberal Democrat conference last Weekend representatives debated a motion that suggested that the changes made to Lansley’s Health Bill were good and great. They were so good and great, it was suggested by the Party Leadership, that we should no longer oppose the changes. The Leadership wanted us now to support them. In an impressive debate Liberal Democrats repudiated the arguments and arm twisting. The Liberal Democrat Party does not support the Health and social Care Bill. On this occasion I was not called to speak, but had I done so this is the briefer version of what I would have said.
The Health and social Care Bill is bad for patients, bad for the NHS and bad for our Party. You have been bombarded with leaflets from the office of our party leader telling you that the Health bill is less bad than it was. It is pretty poor if that is the best they cn say for it.
My patients want me to be their doctor, to put their interests first. They do not want me to spend all my time managing contracts and budgets.
My patients want the NHS to provide a good local service, co-ordinated and integrated. They do not want to be confused by the choice of a multitude of providers each offering a different mixture of services, but none offering to care for the whole patient.
My patients want the NHS to be an organisation they can trust that will look after them for any illness, at any time and at any place. They do not want the NHS that is no more than a logo franchised out to a host of fly-by-night companies that might go bust or might be taken over.
This Bill changes the whole nature of the NHS. The essence of the old NHS is to to provide everything a patient needs. The essence of the New NHS is to do nothing. It becomes a purchasing organisation buying what it can get in the market for the money available, and when the money runs out rationing, delaying, or redefining the limits on the care you can have. Every Group of GPs will determine a different level of services for their patients. These changes are written throughout the Bill. That is why Lansley has persisted in refusing to reinstate the words that have been in every NHS Act from 1946 to 2006. Lansley does not want to have anything to do with providing care.
My patients want the NHS to be effective and efficient.
Under this Bill unit costs will rise, admin costs will rise and litigation costs will rise.
I am sorry to say that we have not stopped cherry picking, We have not protected the NHS from the effects of competition law and we have not eliminated competition based on price.
Insisting on a register of interests does not eliminate those interests. And we have not done anything about the serious problem of clinical conflict. I have repeatedly asked for answers as to whether doctors on a commissioning group were expected to put the financial interests of the commissioning group ahead of the clinical needs of their patients. I have had no answer.
What am I to say to my patients?
My patients do not want this bill. And remember, fellow Liberal Democrats, my patients are your voters.
In Shrewsbury we have been picking up votes from the Tories, because the voters do not like what is happening to the NHS and they know the stand that I have been taking.
What am I to say to voters now.
Politics may require compromise. But Conference we have tried that. Our MPs and Peers have worked hard to improve this Bill. But it is still an enormous and dangerous mess.
Now it is time to stand up and be counted. I truly believe this is a historic moment for our Party, the very last chance we have to prevent a social and political disaster.
Please don’t fail the challenge. Reject the motion.