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The National Health Service

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:40 pm on 23rd October 2019.

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Photo of Barry Gardiner Barry Gardiner Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade 6:40 pm, 23rd October 2019

At the opening of the London Olympics, Danny Boyle wanted to show the world what it meant to be British, and he chose the NHS because it illustrates all that is best in our country. Watching on TV, millions marvelled at our nurses, our doctors and our carers, and in the stadium, thousands cheered. That is how proud we are of our NHS. All the people who work in it—cleaners, consultants, nurses, night porters, radiographers and receptionists—play a vital role in caring for our society. They are our national symbol of community and our model of selfless service.

This debate has reflected that, with 34 speeches and 49 interventions. There have been some wonderful speeches, including personal testimonies from James Brokenshire, Mike Wood and my hon. Friend Mary Glindon—my dear friend—who if she did not quite move herself to tears, certainly moved the rest of us.

However, millions now worry that the NHS could be up for grabs in a future free trade agreement. At the heart of those fears is the Health and Social Care Act 2012, passed by the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition. It puts costs before quality and commercial competition at the heart of health commissioning. Just after the Act was passed, our local 111 service in Brent North was outsourced to a private company, the majority of the directors of which sat on the local clinical commissioning group—the very group that had awarded them the contract.

The Health and Social Care Act has allowed perverse commissioning decisions like that up and down the country. Today, our local CCG in north-west London faces not the £51 million deficit at year-end set out in its operational plan, but £112 million—an additional £61 million overspend as a result of an increase in acute activity of 18% against a population increase of 5%. When Conservative Members and their Liberal Democrat partners told us that the NHS was not for sale, those assurances were worthless. People may not be able to buy it, but privatisation is tearing it apart. My CCG has announced the closure of the 24-hour service at the urgent care centre in Middlesex Hospital.