A damning report by MPs on the Health Select Committee left David Cameron clutching at straws at Prime Ministers’ Questions last week, in his desperate bid to shore-up collapsing support for his Health Bill.
The all-party Committee, which includes senior Conservative MPs, said the Bill was ‘a dangerous distraction’ to the NHS, which is trying to keep a grip on patient care as it is being required to make £20bn in efficiency savings. There is so much which is good about the NHS, but inevitably the chaos caused by the Health Bill will start to take its toll.
This week, the British Medical Journal, Health Service Journal and Nursing Times unanimously condemned the Government’s shakeup as a 'damaging … unholy mess'.
The latest data on waiting times showed that, nationally, 42% more patients were forced to wait longer than 18 weeks for their treatment, since 2010.Locally, the number of people waiting 18 weeks or more has shot up by 84% in Sheffield and a massive 135% in Derbyshire. These increases follow year-on-year decreases in waiting-times which followed the significant investment in new buildings and equipment and increases in doctors and nurses made by the last government.
If the Prime Minister succeeds in allowing hospitals to fill 49% of hospital beds with private patients, this is certain to get worse.
For the last 12 months, my colleague John Healey MP (Wentworth, Rotherham) has been asking Andrew Lansley, the Secretary of State for Health, to publish a report prepared for the government on the risks it was taking with its top-down NHS re-organisation proposals costing £2bn. Lansley has consistently refused to release the report, but now the Information Commissioner has instructed him to make it public. He must do that now, whilst Parliament is still debating his proposals.
The Prime Minister is pushing the NHS to the brink by re-organising at this time of financial stress. It’s time he listened to patients, staff and the independent experts. He should drop this Bill and put our NHS first.