Thursday 25 April 2013

Liberal Democrat peers miss their opportunity on the NHS

Although I served for two terms as a Liberal Democrat representative on our local Community Health Council (CHC) I do not pretend to understand the ins and outs of NHS organisation.  Even in that period (CHCs were abolished in 2003) my experience was that I'd no sooner begun to get the hang of things when the government of the day ordered a re-organisation and I had to start al over again.  The current, unmandated, reorganisation continues that unfortunate tradition.

But,  although I do not fully  to the implications, the point of view expressed in this letter to the Guardian, from a Dr David Wrigley (no relation of which I'm aware), rings true.

 • The BMA's call for the withdrawal of the NHS regulations may seem just technical, but nothing could be further from the truth. The regulations would in effect force commissioning doctors in the English NHS to put services out to tender – which hugely advantages large profit-hungry healthcare companies. The regulations would continue the parcelling up and selling off of many parts of our NHS. Lib Dem peers should ignore the whip and vote to defend our NHS from irreversible commercialisation.
Dr David Wrigley

So true, in fact that I forarded it to one of the tiny  handful of Liberal Democrat peers whom I know personnally in the hope of infulencing his vote.

In reposne my friendly peer sent me a copy of a letter of explanation from the Government's minister in the Lords, an Earl Howe, to his Labour opposite number, presumably meant to justify the changes but which in fact simply claimed that  ". . .the rules on competitive tendering have not changed.  They are exactly the same as yoiur (Labour) government's rules which themselves refelcted how proucurement law - also put in place by your government in 2006 - applied to the NHS."

I find it profoundly dissapointing that the main argument is on he level of the junior school palyground (You did it first) rather than on the merits of the case.

My friend also sent me a copy of the briefing sent to Liberal Democrat Peers by the Liberal Democrat Whips' Office, which, among other things, recommended that they  should read and be influenced by an article by a Labour peer, Lord Warner.

In this Lord Warner explains  that his  ". .  reading of (the regulations) is that they do little more than put on a statutory footing the competition and procurement rules produced under the previous government, with the addition of some sensible provisions on the integration of health and social care."

Lord Warner's support is, however,  not all that surprising. If you go on to read the comments on this article you will find:

 Lord Warner is former adviser to Apax Partners, one of the leading global investors in the healthcare sector. Current director of Sage Advice Ltd. Works as an adviser to Xansa, a technology firm, and Byotrol, an antimicrobial company, which both sell services or products to the NHS” and was “paid by DLA Piper, which advised ministers on the £12 billion IT project for the NHS” projects that he was responsible for when he was a government minister. He should not be allowed to vote on this issue as he stands to gain from increased privatisation of the NHS. Neither should any of the Lords with links to private healthcare, of which there are many.

Sadly the motion to follow the BMA's adivce and reject the new requlations was deafeated by 254 votes to 146.

I regret that Liberal Democrat peers have missed an opportunity to restore at least some of our political credibility.

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