Many constituents have contacted me about the Health and Care Bill. Please see my response to these concerns below
“Thank you for writing to me about the Health and Care Bill which had its Second Reading on 14 July and sets out a major reorganisation of the NHS in England – including changes to procurement and competition rules relating to health services.
I am very concerned about this legislation, and what it would mean for our NHS. I voted against the Bill at Second Reading. Unfortunately, the Bill passed this stage after being voted for by the governing party and will now progress to its next stage in the Commons.
I, and many other anti-privatisation campaigners, are worried that the Bill includes measures that could pave the way for private healthcare providers to sit on NHS decision-making boards. To me, this would be a clear conflict of interest, as private healthcare providers are not accountable to the public and their interests are in pursuing profits not what is best for public health. The British Medical Association (BMA) argues that “corporate private providers should have no place on Integrated Care Boards or Integrated Care Partnerships, to prevent conflicts of interest and any undue influence over the use of vital NHS and public resources.” I am also worried about the measures in the Bill that would change the rules on how private contracts are handed out. The BMA warn that the proposed changes could allow contracts “to be awarded to private providers without proper scrutiny or transparency.” While Keep Our NHS Public has warned that the Bill could see “a transition to an unregulated market in healthcare.” I am opposed to these efforts to further remove scrutiny and transparency around the awarding of NHS contracts.
Scandals like the Greensill debacle have reinforced my long-held concerns about the way in which lucrative contracts are handled – including at times with what appears to be little public oversight or even competition. In February 2021, the Government was found to have unlawfully failed to publish details of covid-19-related contracts worth billions. According to Transparency International UK, 1 in 5 covid contracts awarded between February and November 2020 “contained one or more red flags for possible corruption and require urgent further investigation.” Likewise, I know that there has been a lack of transparency regarding the recent takeover of a number of GP practices by US private healthcare company Centene. This is despite widespread concerns, as highlighted by We Own It and others, that the move will be to the “detriment of the NHS and service provision.”
Recent years have highlighted the failures of outsourcing at a local and national level. Multiple studies by respected experts have examined how the contracting-out of public services has often resulted in damage to the quality of services, deterioration in conditions and protections for workers, and reduced democratic accountability. Outsourcing and Private Finance Initiatives (PFIs) have also tended not to deliver on promised increases in innovation and efficiency. Further to this, evidence has shown that the covid-19 crisis has reinforced these problems – harming our ability to coordinate service provision, as has been argued by the trade union movement and others. This comes as the situation facing NHS services, in terms of funding and resources, is critical and has been escalating for some time.
I was elected on a manifesto that pledged to introduce a presumption in favour of insourcing and to take all PFI contracts “back in-house.” I will continue to push for an insourcing-first approach to be adopted because I think we all should support a model of public service delivery that values excellent quality public services (with no corners cut to save on costs), protects workers’ rights, and is transparent and accountable.
There are also concerns from a wide range of groups that the Bill ignores the key and pressing issues affecting the NHS and its staff – particularly the impact of the pandemic on staff and patients, waiting lists for non-covid treatment, wider reform of adult social care, and workforce pressures. Yet, throughout this pandemic, we have seen the best of our NHS despite these obstacles – with NHS workers going beyond what would normally be expected of them. I stand in solidarity with NHS workers and their trade unions who are campaigning for a pay rise that reflects their efforts during the pandemic and repairs the damage done by years of real-terms loss of pay since 2010.”