Health Reforms Have 'No Mandate, No Evidence And No Support' Peers Say
An alliance of Peers began their attempt to block the NHS Bill as the government's controversial health reforms were debated in the House of Lords.
Conservative Lord Howe kicked off the debate after distributing a last-minute letter to Lords warning against two peers' attempts to have the Bill send to committee on Tuesday morning. He outlined concessions the government were willing to make, saying that while it was "unequivocally clear" that health secretary Andrew Lansley still had ultimate responsibility for the NHS under the legislation, they were willing to make this clearer.
But Howe's claim that Labour had "wholeheartedly embraced" many principles of the Bill and it was "the inverse of a top down reorganisation" was shot down by Labour peer Baroness Thornton.
She said the government had shown "breathtaking disregard for the democratic process". And she reminded Liberal Democrat peers of their reputation for protecting the NHS, warning them not to put this in "jeopardy"
Thornton added that the government had "no mandate, no evidence and no support" and warned the Bill would turn getting NHS care into "shopping".
Labour peer and former GP Lord Rea, who has attempted to table an amendment halting the Bill altogether, accused the government of "deliberate concealment" of their intentions for the NHS prior to being elected.
Lord Darzi, former Labour health minister, said he would find it "difficult at this stage" to vote for Rea's amendment blocking the Bill given the changes which have already been made in the NHS. He stressed he was speaking as a surgeon, not a politician.
Over 100 Lords are scheduled to speak at the debate, including Lib Dem peer Baroness Williams, with the House set to sit until 11:30 this evening.
Medical organisations have united in opposition to the changes, which will dissolve primary care trusts (PCTs).
Opponents of the reforms argue they will allow private patients to leapfrog to the front of queues for surgery, open the NHS up to competition and create a new and complex layer of quangos to replaces PCTs.
The Chairman of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, Professor Sir Neil Douglas, has expressed serious concern about the NHS reforms, saying the Bill could "damage patient care".
And the BMA has written to every peer in the Lords outlining their concerns about the Bill.
London university academics have also written to medical journal the Lancet saying are the reforms "fundamentally flawed".