The decision of MPs today (Friday 21 November) to vote in favour of the private member’s bill to roll-back the privatisation of the NHS was hailed as ‘a great victory’ by unions and health campaigners.
MPs voted by 241 to 18 in favour of the National Health Services (Amended Duties and Powers) bill, promoted by Labour MP for Eltham, Clive Efford.
The bill is aimed at ridding the NHS of the worst parts of the government’s pro-privatisation Health and Social Care Act 2012, by rewriting the rules that force competitive tendering of NHS services.
The bill will also restore the responsibility to the secretary of state for health to provide a comprehensive health service, free at the point of delivery and prevents foundation trusts from prioritising private income at the expense of NHS patients.
Clive Efford said: “I am delighted that my bill has been passed with the overwhelming support of Labour MPs. The Labour party created the NHS and today we were out in force to protect it from competition from private companies, to exempt it from any Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement and to ensure that we prioritise patients not profit.
“But our fight isn’t over. Now we need to pressure the government to make sure that they take the bill straight to committee and do not use delay tactics to try to stall its passage through parliament.
“We have seen the impact that the Tories’ privatisation agenda has had on our NHS – longer waiting times, fewer frontline staff and £3 billion wasted on a pointless top-down reorganisation – and the Liberal Democrats have gone along with it.
“It is simple, we will not stand for this and my bill just signals the start. A Labour government would repeal the toxic Health and Social Care Act and ensure that we put patients back where they belong – at the heart of our NHS.”
Activists from the health unions, Unite, Unison and the GMB staged a candle-lit vigil in support of the bill last night at Old Palace Yard, Westminster until the vote by MPs on the bill.
Unite head of health Rachael Maskell said: “This is a great victory for public opinion and is the first step on the road to restore the NHS to a service free at the point of delivery for all those in need. We must redouble our efforts to achieve this goal as the bill goes through the committee stage.”
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis, said: “Even senior Tories admit that the Health and Social Care Act is their biggest mistake. The vote today is the first step in undoing this travesty. Our NHS must be protected from privatisation, so the government must now give Clive Efford’s NHS Bill the committee time it deserves and allow the will of the public to prevail.”
GMB national officer for the NHS Rehana Azam said: “Today is a good step for all those campaigning to expose the devastating attacks unleashed by the Tory/Lib Dem Health and Social Care Act 2012. The government can’t ignore this ‘yes’ vote and now needs to give the Efford bill the attention needed at committee stage.
“The GMB has seen first-hand the effects of the act on patients and staff and it’s time to start rebuilding the NHS based on its core founding principles.”