The last week has seen a huge amount of activity around the Health and Social Care Bill. First let’s start with some positives; such as the TUC rally to Save Our NHS in London. See Youtube for speeches, in particular, this powerful one from David Owen.
An amazing 20,000 of us chipped in to the 38 degrees campaign to put up huge billboards across London. These feature health practitioners warning the public about the dangerous consequences for the NHS if the Bill is passed.
There has been a lot of media attention as the NHS featured heavily in this weekend’s Liberal Democrat conference. The Lib Dems voted against the motion for Lib Dem peers to support the third reading of the Bill when it reaches the Lords next week. So this is good – the majority of Lib Dems felt that the Bill had not been changed significantly enough for them to advocate supporting it.
However, they also voted against the motion to drop the Bill completely. They are stuck in the middle, sitting on the fence. It is a mixture of confusion and cowardice. (See this Guardian article for further explanation.)
Another avenue which is being pursued rigorously is a debate in the Commons. Dr Kailash Chand’s (OBE) ‘Drop the Bill’ e-petition has received over 170,000 signatures. The MPs on the Backbench Business Committee refused to allow time for the Bill to be debated. However, Andy Burnham, shadow Health Secretary, has secured a slot for the debate and vote on Tuesday (13th March). The outcome of this debate will be interesting but I am not convinced it will be radical.
The Bill will reach the Lords for its third reading and final vote on 19 March.
There are a few things we can do:
1. Continue to raise awareness. You can order free leaflets and posters from the 38 degrees website. Tweet/blog/talk to people voicing your concerns about the Bill and about the urgency of it. If the recent Kony 2012 video (with all its problems) has demonstrated anything it is the power of how fast things can spread, through the power of social media, of promoting messages by putting up posters and talking to people. The issues have inspired debate, criticism and passion and it has been hard to ignore. But raising public awareness does not on its own lead to change.
2. Lobby our MPs – be passionate. They represent us. Urge them to vote against the Bill.
3. Lobby a Lord. All the major amendments that would significantly help control the damage done by the Bill have been defeated but the margins have fallen over time. For example the latest amendment on the Private Patient Income Cap was defeated by a government majority of 58. This means that if 30 crossbench and Liberal Peers switched votes, the amendment would have passed.
This is a chance to help limit the disastrous consequences of the Bill. We can make it hard for the government to accept the Bill as a whole through changing the opinions and the votes of the Lords. The list of peers to lobby is here: under non-contents. Their contact details can be found here. Alternatively click on the TUC’s link to be assigned one at random.
There are two important dates to focus our attention on:
Tuesday 13 March – debate in the Commons.
Monday 19 March – Lords third reading and vote.
Let’s do as much as we can in the next 8 days to persuade our MPs and Peers that this Health and Social Care Bill is the wrong Bill at the wrong time. If we want to keep our Health Service National, Not for Profit but for the Patient, they need to vote against the Bill.