Updated: Thursday, 18th April 2019 @ 9:36am

A week to save the NHS: Oldham resists NHS reforms at a public meeting

A week to save the NHS: Oldham resists NHS reforms at a public meeting

By Iram Ramzan, Social Affairs Correspondent

A meeting in opposition to the government’s controversial reforms of the NHS will be held in Oldham tonight, featuring prominent MPs Debbie Abrahams and Michael Meacher.

The Health and Social Care Bill, currently at the Report Stage and Third Reading, is seen by many as a way of privatising the NHS, due to a clause which states Monitor (NHS foundation trust regulator) must promote competition. Despite having been amended on 19th July, critics claim that the wording is ‘clever’ and has not actually changed anything.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley is confident his key proposals for GP commissioning will survive, having received support from the Tory right, as well as from Blairite health reformers.

Mrs Abrahams criticised the philosophy behind the proposals, stating earlier this year: “The reforms are based on the notion that increasing competition drives down cost and improves quality. However, the overwhelming evidence from the UK, US and elsewhere is that this is not the way competition works in healthcare.”

Wendy Savage, Chair of Keep Our NHS Public, believes that while Labour are the best opposition to the bill and are doing a good job in raising awareness, the reformation of the NHS is a continuation of the previous Labour government’s policies.

“The effect of the Bill is to fragment the NHS which will ultimately lead to privatisation,” she said. “It’s a terrible comment on our so-called democracy that we have to rely on our Lords, an unelected body, to re write the bill, which is a mess. Companies, in particular the American companies, are hovering like vultures.”

Furthermore, in a letter to all MPs, Chairman of the British Medical Association Dr Hamish Meldrum said: "It is clear that the troubled passage of the Health and Social Care Bill reflects real concern over the future direction of the health service in England."

However, not everyone is opposed to the Bill. Defence Secretary Liam Fox gave strong backing to Lansley's plans, stating: "We have very clear common aims, that we want to get the outcomes of the NHS up, we have to get better health outcomes in this country for the money we spend. We also have to ensure that more decisions are taken by doctors and nurses and fewer by bureaucrats."

The think-tank Reform says the proposal to stop Monitor enforcing competition would set the NHS back a decade. Deputy Director Nick Seddon said: “Without competition, there is simply no way that the NHS will achieve the productivity gains that it requires.”

For those who wish to know more about the Health and Social Care Bill, the meeting will be held tonight at 7.30 in Oldham at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, West Street.