A number of constituents emailed me about the second reading of the National Health Service Bill (nicknamed the NHS Reinstatement Bill) on Friday 11 March.
Like other private members’ bills, this took place on a Friday, on this occasion, clashing with my surgery day – where I hold surgeries across seven wards with pre-booked appointments from 9.15am to 6.45pm.
Although I could not attend to vote, let me outline my view.
As you may know, this Bill was introduced as a Private Member’s Bill last summer and as such, it is subject to the constraints associated with the parliamentary timetable. Even if the Bill were to receive its second reading, there is little prospect of the Bill becoming law in this session due to a lack of parliamentary time. For those who do not follow Parliamentary procedure, the previous Bill on the agenda was discussed at length by Tory MPs, to prevent this Bill being debated. In the end, the debate on the National Health Service Bill only began at 2.13, and the session was due to end at 2.30pm, so the Bill ran out of time. No matter how many MPs were present, the Speaker would not have allowed the debate to be terminated for a vote, after only 17 minutes.
Labour supported the overall objectives of the Bill, such the principles behind duties outlined in Clause 1 of the proposed Bill – namely restoring accountability to the Secretary of State for the delivery of health services and the requirement that a comprehensive health service continues to be provided free of charge.
Also, Labour does not support creeping privatisation of the NHS. And we oppose any question of NHS services being affected by any international treaties or agreements, such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
Unfortunately, this Bill is not perfect. Parts of the Bill would require another wholesale reorganisation of the health service. The £3billion, top-down reorganisation of the NHS, brought about by the Coalition’s Health and Social Care Act 2012, threw the system into turmoil, and eroded staff morale. Another structural change on this scale, with all the costs associated with yet another major reorganisation of the NHS, is not welcome. That is the position of Labour’s frontbench and why we could not support this Bill.
The NHS needs a period of stability and sustained investment. Not further upheaval, however will intentioned.
In 2015, I stood on a manifesto commitment to repeal elements of the Health and Social Care Act 2012, and ensuring that patient care is always put ahead of commercial concerns. But this Bill is not the way to achieve that.