Mar 162012

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.
Liberal Democrats
Liberal Democrats

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

Thanks once again for contacting Nick about this important issue.

Best wishes,

Rory Belcher
Office of Nick Clegg MP

anarchic teapot

Site owner. Opinionated bugger. Qualified accountant, IT bod and French-English translator. I swear a lot.
anarchic teapot has written 65 posts on this blog.
  • A&E Reg (@G_O_M_E_R)

    I got exactly the same reply. I’m not naive enough to expect a personal email back from the Deputy PM, but I was very angry at the stock bullshit reply the Lib Dems have been continuously parroting in defence of the Bill. So, after taking a day to calm down, I wrote this in reply, and forwarded a copy to Shirley Williams (PS., I’m very happy for people to cut and paste and use this to email Lib Dems of their choice. Just remember to take out the “A&E doctor” bit):

    “Thank you for your reply. Two inalienable facts remain however, which you have not addressed.

    One is that a key pre-election promise by the Tories was that they would not undertake any top-down reorganisation of the NHS, which was reflected in the Coalition Agreement. This has turned out to be quite simply a barefaced lie to the electorate, because that is precisely what is happening. The Lib Dems have thus been party to this lie (apart from the few peers and MPs whose consciences were stronger than their party allegiances and voted against the Bill). This will not be forgotten. The Tories at least are reverting to type, and no-one is really surprised. The popular perception of the Lib Dems is that, in your desperation to stay in power, you have bent over backwards to betray all your principles of Liberalism and betray the 6.8 million people who voted for you in 2010 (myself included).

    Secondly, speaking as an A&E doctor myself, working in one of David Cameron’s much-vaunted “front-line services”, it is very clear, despite what Mr Lansley tries to say to the contrary, that the overwhelming majority of healthcare workers – Royal Colleges, BMA, unions, nursing colleges – are in favour of dropping the bill altogether. The scale of the opposition from people who have devoted their lives to working within the NHS, who know it inside-out, should surely in itself send out a powerful message that the inherent nature of the Bill will dismantle the NHS and produce a service where the profit motive trumps patient safety, patient comfort and evidence-based best practice as espoused by doctors and nurses. The voice of the greatest asset in the NHS – the people who work for it – is being flagrantly ignored, so much so that the recent ‘NHS Summit’ excluded some of the most influential stakeholders such as the RCGP, RCN and BMA: a frankly disgraceful and childish way for a Prime Minister to behave.

    It is disingenuous to protest to us that the NHS will continue to be free at the point of use: we KNOW that, it’s the fact that money will be spent and services provided based on profit margins and maximising shareholder value instead of the needs of the patient (which aren’t cost-effective and therefore will be of less importance). This from your party which in the past had the honesty and integrity to admit that they would raise extra billions in revenue for public services by charging an extra penny in income tax, and tell us how it intended to spend it. This in a week where the public school and Oxford-educated Chancellor of the Exchequer is poised to abolish the top rate of tax for high earners, and further declared war on the public sector with his intention to abolish national pay scales.

    It’s also incredibly patronising for people like Nick Clegg and Shirley Williams to try and sell the HSC Bill on the basis that “we don’t understand it” well enough – to people who have spent long hours every week, and the best part of their lives in the NHS, being told this by politicians who have no experience in it (Shirley Williams was never even a Health Minister while a Labour MP!). We DO understand it. Furthermore, to suggest that Lib Dem politicians understand the implications of the Bill better than people like Alyson Pollock, Clare Gerada and Clive Peedell is breathtakingly arrogant.

    Finally, Shirley Williams’ claim that this is a party-political battle being fought by Labour supporters is false. If this had been a bill brought by a Labour government I can guarantee that the opposition to it would be the same. The opposition by voices such as the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph demonstrates how far above party political lines this issue is. As I mentioned before, I was one of the deluded fools who voted Lib Dem in 2010 because I was disillusioned with the direction New Labour had taken the country and the Labour movement. Never again will I make that mistake, as I’m sure will hundreds of thousands of other voters. The sense of betrayal I have felt over the last 20 months at the Lib Dem support for divisive right-wing Tory policies has been multiplied ten-fold by the passage of the HSC Bill, aided and abetted by Lib Dem MPs and peers. At the next election not only will I not support the Lib Dems but I will also assist in the campaigns to unseat Lib Dem MPs and try and persuade others to do the same. I am afraid that you and your party have signed your electoral suicide note.

    Yours, in Disgust

    Dr. GOMER, SpR Emergency Medicine”

    (Dr. GOMER has also stated that ” I’m also happy for people to cut and paste and use it themselves if they like”. The original posting is here. Feel free to quote both or either of us, but please remember to credit and LINK. This is not out of vanity; it’s for reasons of visibility of the subject matter – AT)

  • anarchic teapot

    UPDATE: One person’s account of the peaceful unarmed protest broken up by armed police. In the UK, the police are not supposed to be armed unless they expect armed resistance. This was a protest mostly by health workers and the disabled.

    The NHS demo and the failure to report

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