UK MPs Approve Controversial NHS Bill
The NHS health bill has survived the final parliamentary test and is set to become law.
Labour’s call for MPs to delay their final consideration of the NHS overhaul in England until an evaluation of the potential risks is available was defeated by 82 votes.
An emergency debate over the proposed Health and Social Care Bill was held by Labour to try and block the changes until a risk register was issued.
But MPs voted 328 to 246 against shadow health secretary, Andy Burnham’s, calls to postpone the reforms.
The House of Lords approved the bill late Monday evening. The government now hopes the bill will get Royal Assent and become law by Easter.
The bill has had a tough passage through Parliament with the UK government providing extensive changes to the legislation on the way.
Andy Burnham announced, as the bill was debated, that “the only hope that I can give to people worried about the future of the NHS today is that this might be the end of the bill but it is just the beginning of our campaign.” He accused the Government of gambling on the NHS in England’s future without providing information about the potential risks to the public.
In contrast, the Health Secretary, Mr Lansley, accused Labour of “political opportunism”, adding that civil servants needed “safe space” in which to advise ministers. Mr Lansley added that “publication of the risk register would prejudice the frankness and integrity of the decision-making processes of government and the Government is opposed to their publication.”
Under the planned legislation, GPs would have more control over treatment but opponents fear that private companies would have an increased role in the NHS.
After the debate, Mr Burnham promised that the changes would be reversed if Labour won at the next general election.
The bill will not officially come into force until the Queen has signed the bill and returned it to the Commons for Royal Assent.
The bill had threatened to split the Coalition Government, with criticism from several leading Liberal Democrats. Andrew Lansley also came under repeated criticism for failing to communicate the reforms with doctors and the public.
The legislation means that Strategic Health Authorities and Primary Care Trusts will be eliminated and provides greater control over care budgets and commissioning decisions to individual GPs and other healthcare professionals.
However, professional bodies representing doctors, nurses and other NHS workers have joined opposition politicians in fighting the bill.
Unions confirmed that they would not relent in their opposition to the bill when it becomes law. “We will continue to campaign hard to try and mitigate the worst excesses of this bill,” commented Unison general secretary, Dave Prentis.
“Patients will have a two-tier health service and where they live will determine the healthcare they receive,” Prentis added.
Unison members, who represent over a million public sector workers, held a minute’s silence outside Parliament in protest at the changes.