A letter to your MP about the Health Bill

This is important. Please act, and then forward it to as many friends as you can.

On 6th or 7th September, your MP will be voting on the future of the NHS.

If you don’t want to see the privatisation of the NHS,  tell your MP to vote against the Health and Social Care bill.

Many of you have already written to and visited your MPs. It’s important to do it again, because MPs are busy people with lots of competing priorities.
6th and 7th September will be crucial to the future of our health service.

Below are sample letters to Liberal Democrat and Tory MPs. Use the text from one of these if your MP is in one of these parties. If they’re in a different party,  just take a few of the bullet points and write a shorter and more personal letter saying why you value the NHS and asking them to vote NO to the Health and Social Care bill on 6th/7th September.

It’s particularly important that Liberal Democrat MPs receive these because the letter explains how the newly amended bill doesn’t meet several of the “essential amendments” required by Lib Dems at their spring conference. The bill was not in the coalition agreement either, so they do not have to vote for this.

Remember to put your address and postcode at the top as they may not read it if they don’t think you are a constituent.

You can find your MP’s contact details by putting in your postcode at http://findyourmp.parliament.uk/

If your MP has two email addresses, copy it to both. For letters, it’s probably best to use their local constituency office address. If you can go and see them, better still. And if you want to visit them and would like some support, let me  know and I can either come with you myself to explain the issues, or find someone else to.

If this bill goes through, our NHS will end up in the hands of big business and we will move to a market-based health service. In America a million people a year are made bankrupt through their inability to pay their health bills. We can’t afford to let that happen here.

Act now!

Thank you, – and let me know how you get on.

Margaret Greenwood
Facebook: Defend our NHS
Twitter: DefendourNHS

The first letter is for a Libdem MP, the second for Conservative, and there is a suggestion for a Labour MP at the end (mine, Meg Hillier, is Labour)

Dear Lib Dem MP,

I am writing to urge you to vote “No” to the Health and Social Care bill on 6th /7th September.

You may have seen an article in The Telegraph “The day they signed the death warrant for the NHS” (25 July 2011) which argued that 19 July 2011 will be remembered not as the day the Murdochs were bought to book, but as the day Andrew Lansley announced that £1 billion worth of services will be opened up to competitive bids from the private sector, heralding the first wave of NHS privatisation.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthadvice/maxpemberton/8655242/The-day-they-signed-the-death-warrant-for-the-NHS.html

If this bill becomes law, we will lose our NHS as a state-run service. Healthcare in England will be left to the market. This is what happens in the USA, where a million people each year are made bankrupt because they can’t afford to pay for their healthcare. For Americans, this is a reality.

We cannot afford to let that happen inEngland.

The Health and Social Care bill was not part of the Coalition Agreement, and so Liberal Democrat MPs do not have to vote for it. Many of the Liberal Democrats’ “essential amendments” proposed and carried at the spring conference have not been met. It is clear that this bill is a Conservative bill in spirit.

It is vital that Liberal Democrats make a stand against it.

Here are just some examples of how the amended bill does not meet Liberal Democrat essential requirements:

EU Competition law, privatisation and cherry-picking
The most worrying element of the bill is the introduction of the private sector throughout the NHS.

Despite reassurances from government, a key component of the amended bill is the role of Monitor in preventing “anti-competitive behaviour” (Clauses 58, 59, 67, 70) and in enforcing, concurrently with the Office of Fair Trading (Clause 67, 68, 69, 78), the provisions of the Competitions Act 1998 (Clause 67), the Enterprise Act 2002 (Clause 68) and EU Competition law (Clause 67). The functions of Monitor in regard to competition take precedence over its other roles (Clause 69).

This is something that the Liberal Democrats’ showed that they were firmly against at their spring conference, and the party’s proposed amendments to the bill aimed to rule this out. The Liberal Democrats’ proposed amendments were vital if the NHS was to be protected from privatisation and the rule of EU Competition law.

The amended bill has not met this key Liberal Democrat demand. As a result, if this bill is passed, we will see our NHS move to a market-based model, with all of the frightening consequences of that: soaring costs, a postcode lottery, decisions made on the basis of price, not patient care.

In addition, the bill allows for the sale of NHS assets, which raises the distinct possibility of private companies asset-stripping, leaving local people without the hospitals that they know and depend on.

The cap on the amount of money hospitals can make out of private patients is to be lifted entirely, so that hospitals will be able to treat as many private patients as they wish – even if this does push local NHS patients further down waiting lists.

The government has been saying that there will be no competition on price. This is not quite right: there will be no competition on price where a national tariff for those services exists. Price competition will, however, be allowed for those services where there is no national tariff – i.e. about 40 % of services.

Given the emphasis on Monitor preventing “anti-competitive behaviour”, cherry-picking will be inevitable, and decisions will be made by lawyers asserting EU Competition law where a private provider chooses to pursue business in the newly created health marketplace.

Accountability
The Liberal Democrat amendments called for “democratically accountable commissioning” with “healthcare commissioning to be carried out by locally elected health boards or local authorities”.

Yet again, this demand has not been met by the newly amended bill. The Health and Well-being Boards have to be consulted, but commissioning will be carried out by the Clinical Commissioning Groups under the direction of the National Commissioning Board, neither of which are to be elected bodies.

The Clinical Commissioning Groups will have some transparency at the level of their own Boards, but an amendment (to Clause 21, now renumbered Clause 22) to provide real transparency and accountability was defeated (Public Bill Committee 5 July 2011 Column 290 Division 11). There is no mechanism for democratic control over the National Commissioning Board or its regional outposts.

Undermining the patient/doctor relationship

The Liberal Democrat amendments sought to ensure that the relationship between doctor and patient would not be undermined by GPs’ conflicts of interest. At the spring conference the party called for “The continued separation of the commissioning and provision of services to prevent conflicts of interests”.

However, the Clinical Commissioning Groups will be mainly composed of GPs, who may have conflicts of interest through their involvement with private providers. Again, this key Liberal Democrat amendment has not been implemented.

It is vital that the Liberal Democrats see this bill for what it is and oppose it.

Unfortunately, the third vote will be on either 6th or 7th September – before the autumn conference. Nevertheless, opposition to it is growing.

Evan Harris, who masterminded the resistance shown at the spring conference, says that despite concessions in the small print, the core privatisation principle remains. Monitor still has a duty to prevent anticompetitive behaviour, which will put competition above collaboration.

The British Medical Association has announced that it will campaign for the bill to be withdrawn. Its Council stated on 20 July “that the Government is misleading the public by repeatedly stating that there will be ‘no privatisation of the NHS’”.

This bill must be stopped if we are to save our NHS.

If Liberal Democrats vote against the bill at its third reading, the NHS will be saved for future generations.

We urge you, on behalf of your constituents and the children of the future, vote against the Health and Social Care bill on 6th/7th September. Vote “No” for all our sakes.

Yours sincerely,

—————————————————————————————————

Dear Tory MP,

You will be aware that the Health and Social Care bill is making its way through Parliament, and that as an MP you will be voting on this on 6th or 7th September.

Given the controversy generated by this Bill, this could well be one of the most important votes of your career.

I am writing to urge you to vote against the bill, unless you wish to see the privatisation of the National Health Service and feel that this is what your constituents want to see also.

The vast majority of people in England rely on the NHS from the cradle to the grave. They see it as a publically owned, publically run service which they pay for through taxes, and which they treasure.

The British Medical Association Council made a statement on 20 July 2011 that it

  • “rejects the idea that the Government’s proposed changes to the Bill will significantly reduce the risk of further marketisation and privatisation of the NHS;
  • agrees that the Government is misleading the public by repeatedly stating that there will be ‘no privatisation of the NHS’”

Despite all of the assurances after the listening exercise, and despite the amendments of the recommittal stage, the core concern of protesters that the NHS will be privatised has not been addressed. A key component of the amended bill is the role of Monitor in preventing “anti-competitive behaviour” (Clauses 58, 59, 67, 70) and in enforcing, concurrently with the Office of Fair Trading (Clauses 67, 68, 69, 78), the provisions of the Competition Act 1998 (Clause 67), the Enterprise Act 2002 (Clause 68) and EU Competition law (Clause 67). The functions of Monitor in regard to competition take precedence over its other roles (Clause 69).

If this bill goes through, the health service in England will no longer be a planned and managed service for which there is ultimately government accountability; it will be left to the vagaries of the market, with EU competition law enforcing decisions on communities, regardless of their needs.

An article in The Telegraph entitled “The day they signed the death warrant for the NHS” (25 July 2011) argued that 19 July will be remembered in history not as the day the Murdochs were bought to book, but as the day Andrew Lansley announced that £1 billion worth of services will be opened up to competitive bids from the private sector, heralding the first wave of NHS privatisation. You can read this article at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthadvice/maxpemberton/8655242/The-day-they-signed-the-death-warrant-for-the-NHS.html

The government will not be forgiven if it goes ahead and privatises the NHS. As a Conservative MP you need to be aware of this.

Opposition to the bill
The passage of the bill has not been straightforward because of the huge amount of opposition to it:

430,957 people have so far signed the petition opposing the bill organised by non-political campaign group 38 Degrees (they are also the group who co-ordinated the campaign against the sale of forests); thousands more have signed the NHS Support Confederation petition, and numerous other petitions continue to be circulated in constituencies up and down the country.

The British Medical Association voted on 20 July 2011 to launch a campaign for the withdrawal of the bill. Dr Hamish Meldrum, Chair of the BMA Council, said “Whilst the BMA recognises there have been some changes following the listening pause, there is widespread feeling that the proposed legislation is hopelessly complex, and it really would be better if the Bill were withdrawn.”

The Royal College of Nursing “overwhelmingly backed a vote of no confidence in Andrew Lansley’s management of the proposed reforms, and in an emergency debate speaker after speaker condemned the planned reforms at their conference in April.” – Royal College of Nursing.

The Royal College of General Practitioners has announced it will back the BMA’s call for the bill to be withdrawn unless ministers make a raft of further amendments to address GP concerns (Pulse, 26 July 2011).

Reasons why you should vote against it

If the bill is passed, you will see

  • Competition at the heart of the process, enforced by EU competition law – regardless of local public needs
  • Money wasted on tender processes and legal fees where private firms dispute processes
  • Rather than GPs making the decisions, decisions will be made by lawyers using EU competition law to assert the right of private companies to compete for services; this will take priority over meeting the needs of patients
  • Cherry-picking by private healthcare firms, leading to the undermining of NHS services, and a postcode lottery
  • A massive increase in bureaucracy ; the Royal College of General Practitioners has warned that the number of statutory NHS organisations will soar from 163 to 521
  • An increase in costs of healthcare as we move to a situation where there are multiple competing providers, each with their overheads and profit margins to take money from the overall pot available for healthcare
  • Damage to the patient/GP relationship where GPs sit on consortia and have interests in private providers
  • A reduction in co-operation between healthcare professionals as they compete for work within the health marketplace – to the detriment of patients
  • An increase in health inequalities as “health tourism” develops within the UK – leaving those who are less wealthy, less mobile – and even less healthy and able to travel – worse off than those with the mobility, money and health to be able to shop around.

As an MP you may well find that you are unable to save your local hospital from closure should it run into difficulties as it will no longer be a matter of public provision, but simply a manifestation of the market: if a private healthcare company takes over the running of your local hospital, and the hospital fails, you will find yourself powerless to stop it from being sold off.

There is a risk of asset stripping. The bill removes the prohibition of the sale of NHS assets, and allows foundation trusts to raise loans for the first time. This raises the real possibility of private equity companies buying NHS facilities to asset strip them. Warnings that the sort of problems witnessed with Southern Cross care homes will be multiplied many times over if this bill becomes law have been raised in an article on the BMJ website at http://www.bmj.com/content/342/bmj.d3760.full

The market-based model that the bill would move the NHS to would be much more expensive than the current model – both for the individual and for the state.

Read what two American professors of medicine think of the market-based healthcare model Andrew Lansley wants to adopt for England: it’s inefficient, very expensive, doesn’t improve health outcomes and stimulates growth in bureaucracy. It also leads to an undermining of state provision – cherry-picking and a postcode lottery. They begin “Why would anyone choose to emulate the US healthcare system? Costs per capita are about twice the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development average.”
http://www.pnhp.org/publicatio​ns/competition_in_a_publicly_f​unded_healthcare_system.php

“Ministers have been privately advised to allow schools and hospitals to fail if the government is to succeed in its overhaul of public services, confidential government documents reveal” ( The Guardian, 11 July 2011), as part of the dissemination of the Open Public Services White Paper.

Is this going to be in your constituency?
http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/jul/11/nhs-health?INTCMP=SRCH

England simply cannot afford to adopt an American-style market-based approach to health care. In America 1 million people a year are declared bankrupt because of their inability to pay for their healthcare. We cannot afford to let this happen here.

Research in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine this month (July 2011) shows the UK is among the most efficient health services in the world, in lives saved per pound spent. http://shortreports.rsmjournals.com/content/2/7/60.abstract?sid=b0202820-d9bd-4c8f-842d-209571d4972b

For the sake of your constituents, and for future generations, vote on “No” to the Health and Social Care bill on September 6th or 7th.

England cannot afford to lose its NHS. You can stop this happening. Vote “No” in September.

Yours sincerely,

——————————————————————————————————————————————————-

I have sent the following to Meg Hillier, my Labour MP.

Dear Meg,

I am writing to urge you to vote “No” to the Health and Social Care bill on 6th/7th September. Below I have outlined both the problems with the bill and some proposed solutions. Public opposition to NHS privatisation is perfectly expressed by the inspiring words of the Election Manifesto that brought the Labour Government to power in 1997:

Our fundamental purpose is simple but hugely important: to restore the NHS as a public service working cooperatively for patients not a commercial business driven by competition.

If Labour were to oppose the coalition with this promise and a policy proposal to match, I believe that we would see the end of the coalition at the next election.

[beneath this I reproduced the post A better NHS and Allyson Pollock’s proposed amendments]

Yours sincerely, Dr Jonathon Tomlinson.

6 responses to “A letter to your MP about the Health Bill

  1. I’ll do this, I also support various campaigning groups like 360 degrees. But I am in Wales, where the NHS is in a pretty desperate state. We need more than a rearguard actiob,

  2. Dr T, A number of members of the House of Lords would be receptive to this too: they might manage to sway MPs. Perhaps these letters can be adapted to be sent to them as it is possible to contact them via the House of Lords list on the Parliament UK website.
    Rgds Susan A.

  3. Actually, yes. And not just medical Lords.

  4. What a great blog!

    I intend to email every lib-dem MP to try to get them to vote against the bill, as well as writing to my ambitious tory MP. (When I first wrote to him about the NHS bill, I got a standard reply, identical to the one my husband already had).

    The lib-dem MPs really hold the strings for this and, as far as I can see, could easily stop the bill if they were true to their party’s line on the NHS. Also there is absolutely no mandate for the privatisation of the NHS and the tories have admitted that the amendments that followed the pretend consultation period did not alter the fundamental tenet of the bill: to open the NHS to competition. It is clear what that means: Thatcher couldn’t even have dreamed of these changes……

  5. Report from the audit commission today:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/feedarticle/9792180

    “The NHS has delivered a good financial performance in the last year but there are challenges ahead, according to a new report”.

    So the NHS has done well therefore it needs changing:
    2A Department of Health spokesman said: “The NHS has performed well in the face of a tough economic climate. But we know the NHS is facing even greater pressures, not least from rising demand and costs”.
    “That is why we need to modernise the NHS – improving choice for patients to drive up the quality of care and improve patient experience.”

    How many times have we heard the same old mantras about choice and ‘the patient experience’, meaningless as ever. What was it people used to say about ‘if it ain’t broke.’?

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