National Health Service

You can’t trust the Tories on the NHS

nhs bill debate

I know, I know, it’s a pretty tired old refrain.

Usually I avoid this sort of a blog for that exact reason. Trouble is, the Conservative Party will keep conspiring to prove the old adage true.

On Friday in the House of Commons, Clive Efford’s National Health Service (Amended Duties and Powers) Bill received its second reading. The bill would mitigate the damage done to the NHS by the Health and Social Care Act 2012 (also known as “The Lansley Act”) and protect it from being picked apart by privatisation, especially from the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Pact (“TTIP”).

The bill passed, by 241 votes to 18.

The low number of votes against, though, is not suggestive of support from all parties, but rather of the failure of Conservative MPs to turn up to the debate. As reflected in the above picture. I particularly note the absence of both of Southend’s Conservative MPs; James Duddridge and David Amess. I wonder what things they found which were more important than discussing the future of our National Health Service?

It’s worth remembering, then, as the election comes around just how little the Tories care about one of this country’s proudest institutions, and one of the most important concerns in modern politics.

Standing up for the NHS

The Health and Social Care Bill is probably the biggest threat the NHS has faced since its conception.

Nye Bevan is a personal hero of mine. Aside from being a lifelong devoted socialist, and a staunch enemy of the Tories, he was the man who brought the NHS into existence in this country. In a very real sense, Bevan left the world a better place than he found it. Whenever I think of Bevan, one quote in particular springs to mind:

“The NHS will last for as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it”

These are dark times for the NHS. The Health and Social Care Bill threatens the very fabric and purpose of the NHS, far beyond anything ever proposed by the Blair and Brown administrations. The expansion of the private sector to up to half of a hospital’s income will be the first major step to a two-tier health service, and the massive reorganisation at the same time as £20bn savings will cripple it.

But through all this, I have not lost heart. Why not? Because of the response of the British public. You see, those with the faith to fight for the NHS are alive and well across the country. Just look at the official e-petition calling on the government to drop the health bill: it hit the magic 100,000 signatures last week, and at present it’s standing at 160,394. It is the most popular petition on the site. All across the country, people are standing up to protect what Nigel Lawson once called the closest thing to a national British religion.

This includes me. Tomorrow, at 10am, Maidenhead Labour Party will be holding an NHS-themed campaign stall in the high street. Outside Wilkinsons, we will be handing out flyers and asking people to sign petitions. We’ll be campaigning on both national issues, and local health matters such as the already announced closure of Charles Ward.

If you’re in the area, come and see us. If not, you can still help. Every signature on that petition, ever letter to an MP, every word we say against the dismantling of the NHS is a step forward.