This is being posted as-is, to get the information out to as many people as possible and as quickly as possible. You may fire at will in the comments or on your own blogs. The email that sparked this off was sent using Dr Éoin Clarke’s campaigning tools on his website: The Green Benches.
Rory Belcher, Mar 16 17:22 (GMT):
Dear Sir / Madam,
Thank you for taking the time to contact Nick Clegg with your concerns. I am replying to letters and emails on his behalf. Many people have contacted Nick regarding the Health and Social Care Bill, and we are quite aware of the strength of feeling when it comes to protecting our NHS. Unfortunately, due to the volume of correspondence received on this issue, we are unable to provide individual responses. I would however, like to take this opportunity to outline some of the recent developments regarding the Bill.
Liberal Democrats have always been passionate about the NHS and care deeply about protecting the future of our health service. As you are probably aware, at our recent conference in Gateshead our party members debated the Health and Social Care Bill. During this debate we applauded all the changes that Liberal Democrats have made to this Bill and Conference passed a motion that recognised that fact.
Our delegates also made it clear that the work on this Bill needs to continue and that the NHS cannot stand still. The NHS is facing new challenges of an ageing population and increasing costs of treatments. It is important that we make these changes to deliver more care in our local communities rather than hospitals, to ensure we maintain a sustainable, comprehensive health service for years to come.
Firstly, I would like to make it clear that the Health and Social Care Bill aims to take power out of the hands of middle managers and into the hands of those who know patients best – the doctors and nurses. This will be carried out by setting up new Commissioning Groups, made up of doctors and other professionals, which will be able to make decisions about their local NHS so that it suits local people.
As Nick and Shirley Williams’ recent letter to members made clear, Liberal Democrats will always work to ensure that the NHS will remain free at the point of use and always available to everyone. Our party will never let the NHS be privatised – and these reforms do not do that. In fact, under Labour, private companies were given special favours and were paid £250 million for operations they didn’t even perform, a practice Liberal Democrats have prevented with the changes they have made to this Bill.
When the reforms were first proposed last year, Liberal Democrats were not happy with all the suggestions. We agreed doctors and nurses should have more power, but were worried about some issues like too much competition. We demanded several key changes that were needed to protect the NHS and the Government accepted our ideas, including:
• No promotion of competition. The number one priority is the interests of patients.
• Health Ministers are still accountable. The Secretary of State for Health will be politically and legally accountable for a comprehensive national health service.
• No decisions behind closed doors. Liberal Democrats made sure the Commissioning Groups will be open, accountable, required to meet in public and subject to Freedom of Information.
In the past few months the Government has also passed amendments that address the key concerns raised by Nick Clegg and Shirley Williams in their recent letter to members. As a result of this, Competition Commission reviews have been removed from the Bill to make sure the NHS is never treated like a private industry.
Much has been said about the private patient income cap, but it should be pointed out that income received from private patients will be put straight back into NHS care. Furthermore, the NHS will be shielded from the worst excesses of competition law and we have increased accountability by insisting members of clinical commissioning groups must declare any financial interests so that integrity is maintained. The Government also agreed that any proposal to increase the proportion of total income earned from non-NHS work in a Foundation Trust by 5% or more must be voted for by a majority of governors.
In short, the Liberal Democrats will always work tirelessly to ensure patient care comes first.
Many people have asked about the NHS risk register and why the Government is not publishing it. Risk registers are used by government departments to plan for worst-case scenarios. They range on everything from flu epidemics to terrorist attacks. As you can imagine, publishing these documents could cause unnecessary alarm and compromise sensitive information.
If the Government publishes the NHS risk register, it would then become normal to publish all registers. An unintended but dangerous consequence would be that government officials hold back vital information for fear of being connected with bad news. The most significant risks would therefore no longer be recorded, and no contingency plans would be identified.
Nick and the Liberal Democrats believe that the Government should be open and honest about the NHS reforms, and it can be so without the risk register. The Government already has published a huge amount of information about the effects of the NHS reforms through impact assessments. These were last updated in September and contain a number of potential risks and plans to avoid them. I would encourage you to read these at http://bit.ly/enjxAb.
Thanks once again for contacting Nick about this important issue.
Office of Nick Clegg MP
- The Health and Social Security Bill is an unholy mess. Drop it now. (DC’s Improbable Science)
- Liberal Democrats vote not to hold debate on scrapping NHS bill (guardian.co.uk)
- Nick Clegg faces revolt over NHS reforms (independent.co.uk)
- Clegg and Harman clash over NHS at PMQs (guardian.co.uk)
- National News: Nick Clegg facing Lib Dem revolt over NHS reforms (coventrytelegraph.net)
- Round-up of initial reactions to the Lib Dem conference NHS Bill vote (libdemvoice.org)
- National News: Clegg ‘confident’ over NHS reforms (coventrytelegraph.net)
- Lib Dem conference deals Nick Clegg a blow over NHS bill (guardian.co.uk)