NHS (Private Sector)

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 7:17 pm on 16th January 2012.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Andy Burnham Andy Burnham Shadow Secretary of State for Health 7:17 pm, 16th January 2012

I am not against services being taken on by charities, voluntary providers and, indeed, the private sector. I have never set my face completely against that, but I see clear limits on the involvement and the role of the private sector in the delivery of NHS services. I see the private sector supporting the NHS, working at the margins, providing innovation and support.

The Health Secretary sees the private sector replacing large chunks of the NHS, set up in direct competition with it, which is a very different policy. I ask the hon. Gentleman whether he was elected to the House to support such a policy. Do not the constituents of Dover quite like the NHS that we have, and want it to continue as it has for its first 63 years?

I want briefly to mention the impact assessment. It gives this specific warning if hospitals loosen the private patient cap without creating additional capacity:

“there is a risk that private patients may be prioritised above NHS patients resulting in a growth in waiting lists and waiting times for NHS patients. This is the eventuality that the PPI cap was originally introduced to prevent.”

In other words, there would be a return to that traditional Tory choice in health care—wait longer or pay to go private.

That sums up the big difference between this Government’s approach to the private sector and that of the previous Government. In our system, the private sector was encouraged to throw its lot in with the delivery of the best possible NHS standards of care to NHS patients. By contrast, the world view of this Government sees private health care as a way out of the public NHS, trading on its failures as a means of boosting the private market.

The next question that I ask the right hon. Gentleman to answer is whether the 49% plan can possibly be consistent with the Prime Minister’s promise of no privatisation. We make a reasonable request this evening. We do not reject out of hand any change to the existing PPI cap on foundation trusts. Voting for the motion does not imply opposition to the entire Health and Social Care Bill. But we do reject a 49% cap, which is tantamount to abolition, and we call on the Government to revise it significantly downwards. Voting for the motion will send a signal from the House that the Government need to rethink.

In conclusion, I give notice that we will continue to oppose the Bill outright, and we will put everything we have got into that fight. Let me be clear. The Prime Minister should withdraw his “no privatisation” promise or he should withdraw his Bill. He cannot have it both ways. If the Bill is passed, I do not think there is any question but that it will lead to the privatisation of large chunks of commissioning and NHS provision. The truth is that this is an illegitimate Bill. Nobody voted for it, and it is a Bill that the Health Secretary has mis-sold to the public and professions. He claimed that it was about putting doctors in the lead, but doctors can see it now for what it is. From here on in, we on the Opposition Benches will call it what it is—a privatisation plan for the national health service.

We have called the debate tonight to bring these dangers home to a much wider audience. Time is running out for the NHS and I will give everything I have got to protect the NHS that I believe in. This is worth fighting for because the NHS stands for something different in a world where large parts of our national life have been taken over by profit and money. Recent events have shown the dangers of mixing medicine with the market. People see health as different from other areas and overwhelmingly support the NHS as it is. By and large they trust it and see it as one area of national life where the money motive has not taken over. They want it to stay that way and they look at social care as a warning, showing how a fragmented system can drag standards down. Nye Bevan said there would be an NHS for

“as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it”.

This is the moment of greatest threat to our health service and I tell the Health Secretary and the Government straight tonight to drop this illegitimate Bill or face the fight of their lives. I appeal to Members in all parts of the House who have worries about where the Government are going with the Bill to send a direct message to the Government and to vote as their constituents would want them to do—for an NHS that will always put patient care before profits. I commend the motion to the House.