Health and Care Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:26 pm on 14 July 2021.

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Photo of Clive Lewis Clive Lewis Labour, Norwich South 5:26, 14 July 2021

With the climate crisis and the reality of an ageing population, there has never been a better time for the Government to centre the wellbeing of people and planet and the way in which public services and the economy are run. Sadly but unsurprisingly, the Bill fails in this context, so I will vote against it, because it does not fundamentally deal with the very real issues facing our healthcare system. It does not address the desert of NHS England providing oral and dental healthcare, which has made it impossible for my constituents to get an appointment. It does not guarantee fair pay and conditions for the key workers who have seen us through the pandemic, and it does not deal with the scandalous state of mental health- care. Patients in my constituency are in crisis, are discharged too early, or not admitted at all, while for a decade, Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust has failed to end the practice of sending patients out of area.

What the Bill does do is transfer yet more centralised power to the Executive—rightly described as a power grab by my right hon. Friend Jonathan Ashworth—and, of course, to the private sector. Clause 13, which provides for the establishment of integrated care boards, opens the door to private companies having a say in where funding is allocated and what services are delivered. Clause 3 gives greater political control to the Secretary of State over the NHS England mandate without creating a duty to provide universal, comprehensive and free healthcare to all. Clause 38 empowers the Secretary of State to intervene in the reconfiguration of services, opening the door for politicised interference and gridlocks on decision making.

Where is the democracy, accountability and transparency in the Bill? How will the right of my constituents to healthcare be guaranteed over and above the interests of private companies and the political whims of the Secretary of State? To see what happens when private companies have any role in delivering care, we need only look at the social care crisis. In England, 84% of care home beds are managed by private companies, and three of the five largest care home companies are owned by investment firms whose main priority is economic rent seeking, not the long-term care of our elderly. That model has, unbelievably, led to a cut in the number of care home beds, despite an ageing population, meaning that demand is only growing.

I therefore urge the House to vote against this legislation on what remains of NHS England. It extends the same failed ideology that puts profit before people and which has driven our planet and public services to breakdown.