Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 51 Number 27, November 27, 2021 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Health and Care Bill:

Building Resistance to the Corporate and Capital-Centred Direction for the NHS

On Monday November 22, NHS workers, trade unions and health campaign organisations across England joined MPs in presenting petitions signed by over 300,000 people against the Health and Care Bill on the day that the Bill was being presented to Parliament in the Report stage. This was followed by a rally in the evening at Richmond Terrace, Whitehall, attended by hundreds of people in which many from the movement to safeguard the future of the NHS spoke. During the Report stage, a large number of MPs voted against the Bill, which included a number of MPs on the government benches opposing the government amendment to the "cap on care costs for charging purposes" [1], reducing their majority from 82 to 26. Despite this opposition and its reflection in Parliament, the government pushed through the Bill the following day with the completion of its Report stage and its Third Reading. The Bill has now been passed to the House of Lords and will have its Second Reading in the Lords on December 7. Opposition to the Bill continues and is building.

Speaking at the rally in the evening of November 22, Dr Louise Irvine said: "Health Campaigns Together and Keep Our NHS Public are planning a joint campaign bringing together NHS staff and unions this winter to fight for the NHS. We will continue to oppose the Bill and also demand an immediate cash injection for the NHS, fair pay for NHS staff, an end to privatisation, cronyism and corruption and an urgent and effective enquiry into Covid deaths." She continued by emphasising that "the tide is turning and people are angry and they want to know what they can do to save their precious NHS. We can show the way by working together to build the strongest possible united national movement to defend our NHS. Save our NHS!"

Zarah Sultan MP

Tony O'Sullivan, a retired paediatrician Consultant, and co-chair of KONP told the rally: "This Bill is a dangerous bill and it is being brought at a dangerous time. It does not stop private interests, it de-regulates the awarding of most contracts. It assumes private interests will be in the mix and it allows them to be in partnership on boards and committees and it reduces the power of public authorities and the public to challenge NHS management plans. It threatens to de-regulate clinical staff too and de-skill the professions. It gives the parasite of private interest pride of place in the NHS." He went on to say that at this time of unprecedented crisis in the NHS, "we say scrap the NHS Care Bill and come together now more than ever to save the NHS!" Many other speakers addressed the rally, including the former leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn and those organisations that had helped organise it including Unite the Union, KONP, Just Treatment, We Own It and Your NHS Needs You.

Prior to the protest action, Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: "Our members in the NHS and social care are coping with unacceptable conditions. Staffing levels are dangerously low, waiting lists are at unprecedented highs, and morale is rock bottom. Ministers want to impose real-terms pay cuts. The Health and Care Bill is being used to further run down the NHS and to bring in more privatisation by the back door. It will also lay the path for lower standards of care and further attacks on the pay and conditions of NHS staff. We will ramp up resources to defend our health sector members and oppose these unnecessary attacks."

Unite poster opposingthe Health Care Bill

Also prior to the protest, a new We Own Itpoll [2], conducted by Survation, found that "7 out of 10 of us are concerned that the Bill will mean NHS contracts being handed out to private companies without adequate scrutiny. This includes 70% of Conservative voters and 82% of Labour voters." The We Own It director, Cat Hobbs, said: "This new polling shows the public, including the majority of Conservative voters, is rightly very concerned about the likes of Richard Branson getting contracts in our NHS by the back door. The NHS needs proper funding and it needs to be reinstated as a fully public service. Instead, the government is undermining it by opening it up further to corporate interests. We're calling on all MPs to take a stand now for our NHS and stop this Bill from damaging our health service."

As Workers' Weekly [3] pointed out prior to this present stage of the passage of the Bill: "The Health and Care Bill is continuing the wrong direction for a system of health and social care in England. It is the wrong direction towards a corporate-led and privatised system of health and social care being rolled out on the back of the present health crisis. The new legislation is designed as a new corporate-led model of handing out contracts with their new ICBs and ICPs, covering in some cases some 2 million people with no accountability to those communities, cities and towns. These bodies will have no statutory duty even to make their decisions in public, but are said to be tasked with 'overcoming the bureaucracy' of the regulatory systems of 'procurement and market bureaucracy'."

What this latest protest shows is that the resistance of the people to the attacks on health services is building, as is the growing and overwhelming realisation of the people that with the Bill the government is trying to consolidate this corporate and capital-centred thinking and direction for the NHS. What is also being further revealed is the necessity for a new direction for the NHS which is human-centred, where public authorities involve health staff, and the people in the communities they serve, to speak directly about their needs and participate in making the decisions. A fully funded public health and social care system which is free to all humans as of right is the requirement of a modern society.

1. Amendment NC59, introduced by the Secretary of State for Health, Savid Javid
Previously, the Dilnot Commission had proposed that the overall costs to the local authority of meeting the person's eligible care needs should count towards the cap set at £86,000. This would have protected the savings of less-well-off pensioners who had to pay for their care. However, the government has announced that only the amount that the individual contributes towards these costs will count towards the cap on care costs, so that the less well-off will not have their savings protected.
2. We Own It poll finds 7/10 worried about more NHS privatisation
3. The Pay-the-Rich Direction of the Government in the NHS Continues to be Opposed, Workers' Weekly, November 13, 2021


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