Would you trust these men with the fate of your local hospital?
The LibDem Tory Coalition just did.
Clause 119 passed through Parliament yesterday – with LibDem and Tory support.
Andy Burnham has promised – Labour will repeal it.
Just a reminder of what Clause 119 is.
Jeremy Hunt added Clause 119 to the Care Bill late. It was a response to Hunt’s discomfort over the Lewisham affair – a successful hospital he wanted to close because of the financial plight of its neighbour. Local opposition and a legal challenge got that overturned. But Hunt has not given up. Clause 119 is part of his fightback.
It allows Trust Administrators to take over and close facilities if they think that’s necessary. Basically it gives Hunt as Secretary of State and his officials greater power over closing down hospital services and facilities.
It’s commonly called the ‘Hospital Closure Clause’ and you can see why.
Yesterday there was a chance to defeat it – and everybody recognized that.
Labour mobilized its MPs.
38 Degrees, for example, appealed to their members – and they decided to back an amendment tabled by LibDem Paul Burstow.
There was a petition signed by tens of thousands.
Labour backed Burstow’s amendment – ready to ignore party lines here.
Then at the last minute Burstow withdrew his amendment – and the massed ranks of LibDem/Tory Coalition forces voted Clause 119 through.
Burstow claims that he got what he was looking for from the Secretary of State.
Well, he got some promises about consultation – and the Coalition say this can be written into guidance.
But we’d be forgiven for being sceptical about vague promises and consultations – up against the force of statute – which is what the Care Bill will now become.
Promises that local people will be consulted, that CCGs will be consulted – well there was consultation at Lewisham – people made their opinion clear. Hunt overruled them. But at that point he didn’t have statute behind him – the courts could overturn his decision.
Now the power to do what he wanted will be entrenched in Law.
Thanks to the LibDems – twice over: – to their Coalition who voted for it, to their Paul Burstow who withdrew his amendment.
Yesterday Labour moved Burstow’s amendment anyway – but, inevitably, were defeated as the Coalition rallied.
Andy Burnham is clear about the dangers of the new situation.
As he told the BBC “It creates an entirely new route for hospital reconfiguration – top-down, finance-led.
“It subverts the established process in the NHS which requires that any changes to hospitals should first and foremost be about saving lives, rather than saving money, and it puts management consultants, not medical consultants or GPs, in the driving seat.”
Andy Burnham has promised that Labour will repeal it.
But it’s all a sharp reminder that you can’t trust the LibDems with the NHS any more than the Tories.
The LibDems have form when it comes to backing down and letting Tory policy on the NHS through.
Remember how LibDems behaved on the NHS bill – minor amendments bought them off then, too.
And the result? NHS contracts are being awarded to the private sector faster than we can count – £1, 600,000,000.00 of the NHS was offered to Private Health last week alone. https://t.co/o0UDR1GpYk https://t.co/e9RfnGHWRM
A vote for the LibDems – for ANY LibDem – is a vote for this Coalition.
It was votes for the LibDems in 2010 which put this CoaIition in power.
And votes for the LibDems – for ANY LibDem – in 2015 will keep it there.
Only a vote for Labour can get rid of this Coalition.
“Years from now you’ll have to explain to children what the NHS was. Then you’ll have to explain what a Lib Dem was.” [Lord Owen]
If we don’t want the first half of his prediction to come true, we’ve got to ensure the second does.
Only a vote for Labour can save the NHS.