by Jonathan Rothwell

Time to kill the NHS Bill

The proposed Health and Social Care bill must die.

This is not to say that the NHS, as it is, is perfect. It is not. However, it demonstrably works, and works well. In a time of alleged austerity, can we really afford a massive re-organisation? This stinks of throwing the baby, and the bath, out with the bath water. (The cynic in me proposes that such a thing might happen after a bribe from a bathroom manufacturer.)

It’s not to say that Andrew Lansley doesn’t have noble intentions. He probably does: Lansley (and Cameron, and maybe even Clegg) probably genuinely believe that it’s possible to allow private companies to provide NHS services without compromising the operation of a free-at-the-point-of-use health service. Indeed, it could be possible: I, however, doubt that it is.

The reason the Health and Social Care Bill must die is that it’s bad legislation. It purports to cut red tape, but, in an attempt to allow the outsourcing of patient care, and nebulously ”improve choice,” it introduces an astonishing amount of additional bureaucracy. The Bill takes a flawed but simple system, and adds a convoluted mess of ”health and well-being boards,” ”commissioning boards,” and different groups to monitor and regulate the providers to ensure they’re doing their job properly without screwing the taxpayer over.

This is, primarily, why I’m opposed to the NHS Bill. There are all sorts of other reasons, too, but most critically, the Health and Social Care Bill is a ham-fisted attempt to solve a problem that doesn’t really exist, and allow a couple of firms to make a few million quid from NHS coffers on the way.

Even if you believe something must be done, the Bill, as stands, is not the way to do it. The NHS could be kept as-is, and improved upon. On the other end of the scale, it could be effectively abolished and replaced with an automatic national health insurance system (difficult, but certainly possible, if not rushed.) There are probably other ways to ”fix” it as well that aren’t as messy as the Health and Social Care Bill.

I wouldn’t particularly mind either course of action, as long as it was done properly, and as long as I would continue to be able to walk into my GP’s surgery, make an appointment, and seek accurate and prompt advice or treatment from them, free of charge.

With the Health and Social Care Bill as stands, neither of those things are guaranteed. This, in a nutshell, is why it must die.