Labour leader Ed Miliband has urged the government to withdraw its “reckless” NHS reforms amid speculation that ministers will offer concessions to allay concerns.
In a speech today Miliband will slam the plans in the Health and Social Care Bill and offer cross-party support for replacement proposals.
Miliband condemned the proposals to scrap primary care trusts, transfer commissioning responsibilities to consortia of GPs and open up NHS-funded care to a mixed economy of providers as “wasteful, unnecessary and potentially very damaging”, in a letter to prime minister David Cameron last week.
He called for the Health and Social Care Bill to either be dropped or fundamentally changed, including by reversing plans to transfer commissioning to GP consortia, shielding the NHS from the full force of competition law and ensuring that commissioning decisions are taken in the interests of patients, not profit.
The move comes amid widespread speculation that the government is to put the bill on hold and make changes to allay criticisms, particularly from Liberal Democrat backbenchers. Possible changes include making GP consortia more accountable to health and well-being boards, which will be set up by local authorities to develop local strategies on health and social care, and by ensuring private providers cannot “cherry pick” more profitable services to provide.
However, the government rejected the speculation about the bill being put on hold, saying there was now a “natural break” in its passage through parliament, having finished its committee stage in the House of Commons.
“The speculation is ill-informed and filled with inaccuracies. The bill has now successfully finished committee stage in the Commons and there is a natural break before it moves to the Lords,” said a DH spokesperson.
“We have always been prepared to listen, having already clarified that there is no question of privatisation and that competition will be based on quality, and will continue to do so. We will also stop the previous approach of giving preferential deals to the private sector.”
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