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Trade unions are warning of “chaos” for the NHS if the Tories force through a major reorganisation from Tuesday.
The Government stands accused of a “power grab” with a new bill that hands the Health Secretary powers over the day to day running of the NHS.
Currently it sets general funding and salary structures but operational decisions are made independently by the NHS leadership.
New Health Secretary Sajid Javid will reportedly this week lay the health and care bill before Parliament despite his own misgivings about the plan, drawn up by his predecessor Matt Hancock.
PM Boris Johnson has reportedly rejected Mr Javid’s suggestion to delay the bill.
Boris Johnson is facing big questions over claims he's raiding NHS independence
(Image: Getty Images)
Labour has called for it to be scrapped while campaigners argue it opens the door to greater privatisation of the NHS.
Rachel Harrison, national officer for the GMB union, said: “Our NHS has reached its 73rd birthday in a proud but beleaguered state.
“The service itself has been battered by ten years of Conservative cuts followed by a pandemic, leading to huge waiting lists, cancelled operations and patients being treated in corridors.
“Ministers need to focus on protecting our NHS workers – who are exhausted – not on more restructures and reorganisation which will cause chaos and confusion at the worst possible time.”
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There are fears that greater direct control could mean decisions are made to avoid embarrassing headlines for the Government rather than for the greater good of the NHS.
The NHS Confederation and NHS Providers, that represent health service trusts, have warned against this aspect of the bill.
It also aimed to join up different parts of the NHS that were fragmented under the 2010 Tory reforms of the health service.
One controversial aspect could see local health boards that coordinate different parts of the NHS include representatives of private healthcare providers.
The biggest issue facing the health service post-pandemic is lack of capacity, in both beds and staff.
Campaigners staged a stunt in Parliament Square Garden on Monday against the proposed restructure branded the “corporate takeover bill”.
They staged a ‘tug of war’ between private healthcare providers – including people dressed as Virgin founder Richard Branson and Serco CEO Rupert Soames – and the general public.
Currently Section 75 of the 2012 Health and Social Care Act requires a process of compulsory competitive tendering for NHS services.
The Government’s new legislation would end this requirement, which campaigners claim would make it much easier for services to be contracted to the private sector without checks.
Pascale Robinson, campaign officer at We Own It, said: “Over the last year, our NHS has been the lifeblood of our country keeping so many of us safe during the pandemic.
“The last thing it needs right now is a dangerous and damaging overhaul which would put the private sector at the heart of our health service.
“Most worrying of all is the prospect that for-profit private companies – the likes of Virgin Care and Serco – could be sitting on decision making boards making calls on where NHS money gets spent.
“This private oversight of our healthcare would undermine the principles at the core of the NHS.
“So, with a new Health Secretary in post, the government should rethink and revoke its planned Health and Care Bill. We cannot allow this corporate takeover to go ahead.”