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Health & Social Care Bill

Chris Satori
Yesterday the House of Lords voted for a Mental Health amendment to the Health & Social Care Bill, one of many amendments they are to debate. What with all the demonstrations, the opposition of the main professional bodies, the giant billboard campaign against the bill, and the ensuing legislative morass that is emerging, it's hard to work out who, if anyone, still supprts the Health & Social Care Bill.  To clear things up, last week PM David Cameron listed as supporters the National Association of Primary Care (NAPC), NHS Alliance and the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO) along with former Labour Minister Lord Darzi.

The NAPC is a lobbying body set up in association with some of the largest private healthcare and medical companies for the purpose of supporting clinical commissioning, existing purely to be onside the Bill. ACEVO have issued a statement saying that they haven't taken any position on the 'controversial' Bill as a whole but are focussing their concerns on the grave deficiencies in social care funding and services as highlighted in the Dilnot Report. Lord Darzi has yet to comment, being busy in his new post as Business Ambassador for the UK.

Coalition Survey goes pear-shaped
On Tuesday NHS Alliance published the results of their Clinical Commissioning Groups Support Survey, carried out in coalition with the NAPC, which found that more than four fifths of respondents expressed dissatisfaction with the rolling out of the programme of commissioning support, and less than a fifth said they were content.   70.7% expressed dissatisfaction with the commissioning support being offered.  And 20% indicated they had decided to use their local Primary Care Trust cluster offering because they were just too busy to shop around exploring alternative arrangements. The conclusion? "Unless our concerns are addressed, the NHS will no longer be able to offer care to all free at the point of delivery across the range of services currently available and this country will regress in terms of the quality of care it offers and its status among first world Western countries." The survey results appear to have been removed from the NAPC website. Oops.

Ask us no secrets.....
So who actually supports the Bill? Well, Mr Cameron can always count on Morecambe MP David Morris and Lancaster's MP Eric Ollerenshaw. As we reported last month, the government is fighting to keep secret the contents of its risk assessments of the proposed new Bill's shakeup of the NHS, despite legal threats from the Information Commissioner, with a tribunal set to take place in March. Last week both our local MPs voted against the publication of the NHS risk register after an Opposition Day debate.

In a letter to a constituent Morris, our very own National Elf, explained why we were safer kept uninformed about threats to our NHS;  "There is a real danger that if risk registers are routinely released into the public domain, then risks would no longer be recorded accurately on them. It could also lead to the publication of deeply misleading information. Establishing this precedent would threaten the successful implementation of Government policy."
Read his full response here..

Cumbria County Medical Officer protests 'gag'
Last month Professor John Ashton, County Medical Officer for Cumbria, was summoned to a meeting by PCT bosses after he and 22 other signatories penned a letter to a national newspaper criticising the Bill.  NHS Cumbria initially claimed Professor Ashton breached the NHS code of conduct - by voicing his concerns over the plans. Professor Ashton protested to the BBC that the PCT was acting under instructions from the Secretary of State's office to 'gag' him. After Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham called this 'top-down bullying', Cumbria NHS was roused to confirm that: "Every senior manager in the health service has to nonetheless be mindful of expressing their views on political issues as individuals, and not on behalf of the NHS organisations for which they work .... the meeting with Professor Ashton is not a disciplinary meeting but is to ensure that he is always mindful of these differences."

Conservative Party Central HQ also called the local radio station to 'out' Prof Ashton as a member of the Labour Party, and thus, unlike them, politically biased.  Professor Ashton said, "As a public health director and as the advisor for public health to the county of Cumbria... I have the freedom to speak out on matters of interest. I am not acting politically, I am acting professionally, drawing on the evidence of what will happen if we go down the road to private health insurance." As  MP David Morris didn't say, this is the trouble with letting people who aren't multi-millionaires (or Conservatives) have access to information that affects them.