Bill ‘spells end of the NHS’
The government's Health and Social Care Bill amounts to the abolition of the NHS in England, warn experts in the BMJ.
They say that the legislation repeals the government's duty to provide a universal, comprehensive and publicly accountable health service that is funded by taxation and free at the point of delivery.
Professor Allyson Pollock and David Price, from Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, examined the proposed statutory protections of this duty outlined in the Bill. They argue that the Bill abolishes the Health Secretary's duty to provide such a comprehensive health service in England, replaced by a duty merely to "promote" this.
And the transfer of power to impose charges for services to GP consortia, as well as removal of the cap on Foundation Trusts' income from private care, undermines the government's duty to provide this service free of charge.
Furthermore, resource allocation will no longer be based on geographical population but the consortia's practice lists, which they say will be unable to adjust for differing risk levels.
The researchers say the motivation behind these changes is to create a commercial market, so giving corporate commissioners and investors the freedom to contract out services and redefine the range of services available on the NHS.
Speaking at a recent Royal Society of Medicine debate, Dr Price said that in order to take a "constructive course", he and Pollock have proposed some, albeit fundamental, changes to the Bill. These would restore the duty on the Secretary of State to provide comprehensive healthcare and impose mechanisms to ensure free healthcare to all on the basis of need.
Health Minister Simon Burns said the report was a "grossly misleading and groundless account", adding: "We are absolutely committed to a comprehensive national health service, free at the point of use and based on need rather than ability to pay."
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By Caroline Price