At the Hands off HRI Rally on Saturday 27th February, Jason McCartney MP said he would do everything in his power to keep the hospital open.
So the Chair of North Kirklees Support the NHS, Christine Hyde, said to him:
“Well in that case you could go to the House on 11 March and debate the cross party Bill called the NHS Bill and vote for it.”
Ms Hyde reported that Mr McCartney told her that if he was able to, he would.
However, Mr McCartney later told Plain Speaker:
“I have said on no occasion that I would support this Bill. On checking my diary I have commitments in the constituency that day so will not be able to attend the debate or vote either way on it.
I will do all I can to save our A&E at HRI, but this Bill will have absolutely no impact on the decision the CCG will take. This Bill is calling for mammoth, expensive change without a mandate, which I presume is why only 17 Labour MPs say they will support it.”
On hearing this, Ms Hyde said:
“If politicians do not go to debate the NHS Bill on 11 March, they are manifestly NOT doing everything in their power to save either Dewsbury or Huddersfield Hospitals. They will be condoning the obscene waste of public money on commissioning and the associated multiple trappings of lawyers, contract managers, oversight procedures, monitoring, profit margins and the like. And they will be exposed”.
The NHS Bill would redirect £bns/year wasted on commissioning and related market costs back into patient care
By halting and reversing NHS marketisation and privatisation, the NHS Bill would stop us wasting at least £4.5bn/year on the costs of running the NHS like a market system and privatising its services. This is all money that should be spent on patient care.
If we did that, we wouldn’t be faced with a Calderdale & Kirklees £280m NHS funding shortfall by 2020. This is why the Clinical Commissioning Groups are planning to close Huddersfield A&E, knock down HRI and make all the other cuts and changes that are going to reduce patient care and cost lives.
At the rally, Ms Hyde presented Jason McCartney MP and Paula Sherriff MP with Testimonies on the Destruction of the NHS, from Save the NHS campaigners across the country. These testimonies document the effects of NHS cuts and privatisation on hospitals, GP practices and primary care across the country, and trace them back to the government’s austerity/public spending cuts agenda and to NHS England’s 5 Year Forward View plans to cut costs in order to deal with the projected £22bn NHS funding shortfall by 2020/21. (This translates in Calderdale and Kirklees into a £280m funding shortfall by then).
Since accepting the Testimonies from Ms Hyde, Jason McCartney has since written to one of his constituents to say:
“I will not be supporting the NHS Reinstatement Bill – according to the Bill website only 17 Labour MPs have signed up to the Bill and as a Private Members Bill it is unlikely to go anywhere. The BMA in a vote decided not to lobby in support of the Bill and I was particularly struck by one comment from a doctor in the debate, ‘We don’t need another complete reorganisation, and make no mistake, if enacted, this would be the mother of all reorganisations, costing time, money and staff morale.’ This Bill has no mandate from voters and no detail of where the billions would be coming from to pay for the measures.
I would support instead an independent Royal Commission into the NHS looking into the long term future of health spending.”
Where Mr McCartney is wrong on the NHS Bill
The British Medical Association (BMA) Council supports the NHS Bill and its author Professor Allyson Pollock is a member of the BMA Council.
And doctors voted at the 2015 BMA Conference to support the NHS Bill – although Mr McCartney is right that they decided not to lobby the government to support it, because according to the BMA Council Chair, this would require ‘a huge re-diversion of BMA effort in terms of what we lobby for’.
The NHS Bill would not require a top down reorganisation, its proposals involve a bottom up process of ending the purchaser/provider split and requirements for competitive tendering.
The Bill would save NHS money, not cost money – it would stop the waste of at least £4.5bn/year on the costs of the NHS market bureaucracy. This is the most conservative estimate of the costs of NHS marketisation. Other informed estimates are far higher.
Redirecting this wasted money to patient care would pretty much fill the NHS funding gap that is projected to be £22bn by 2020/21. This translates to a £280m funding shortfall in Calderdale and Kirklees by that time, and it is driving the hospital cuts that Jason McCartney says he wants to stop.
No mandate from voters: the 2012 Health and Social Care Act, which Jason McCartney voted for.
On the question of the NHS Bill having no mandate from voters, a 2013 You Gov Survey showed that 88% of the public want a publicly owned, run and funded NHS. This is what the NHS Bill would deliver. And among Tory voters and supporters, the figure is 77%.
If Mr McCartney doesn’t trust You Gov survey data, it is perfectly possibly for MPs to hold public meetings with constituents to find out where they stand on this or any other issue.
And not having a mandate from voters didn’t bother Jason McCartney when he voted for the Coalition Government’s 2012 Health & Social Care Bill – which was in no party’s election manifesto and went against David Cameron’s pre-election promise of “no top down reorganisation of the NHS”. This Act removed the duty of the Secretary of State to provide a comprehensive, universal health service that is free at the point of need, broke up the structures of the NHS and replaced them with a cats’ cradle of unaccountable quangos and organisations – including NHS England and Clinical Commissioning Groups – all geared to increasing NHS privatisation. We are now living with the results of that totally undemocratic Act.
So why is Mr McCartney suddenly bothered about having a voter mandate now?
Mr McCartney dismisses a Private Members Bill that would restore the NHS – but favours a Private Members’ Bill that aims to end the core NHS principle of “free at the point of need”
For Mr McCartney to say it’s a Private Members Bill, so isn’t going anywhere is a self fulfilling prophecy. If MPs go and debate it and vote for it, this will send a powerful sign to the government that it needs to rethink its NHS privatisation policy, and Mr McCartney would reassure the people he represents that he’s serious about protecting and restoring NHS services.
Mr McCartney supports a Royal Commission into the NHS looking at the future of health spending. Norman Lamb’s NHS Commission Bill is a Trojan horse for introducing “at the point of need” charges for the NHS, and for further privatisation.
And this too is a Private Members’ Bill.
So it seems Mr McCartney will support a pro-privatisation private members’ bill that aims to end the principle of NHS care that is free at the point of need – but not a pro-NHS private members’ Bill that would restore it as a universal, comprehensive service that is free at the point of need, public owned, funded and run and that the Secretary of State has a duty to provide.
However, Mr McCartney has contacted Plain Speaker with this clarification of his position:
“I have been asked to support the call for a Royal Commission by a number of constituents… I agree that Norman Lamb’s Bill may not the best way to take this forward and will be looking with other colleagues of all parties in making progress on this. I want to see a Royal Commission that has been properly thought out and is supported by a cross-party consensus not put forward as a 10 minute rule Bill.”
In January, when the NHS (Commission) Bill was debated in the House of Commons, many local Save the NHS groups signed a public letter rejecting the NHS Commission Bill.
These groups included:
- Calderdale 38 Degrees NHS Campaign Group
- North Kirklees Support the NHS
- Calderdale and Kirklees 999 Call for the NHS
- Huddersfield Keep Our NHS Public
- Campaign to save the Art Therapy service in Calderdale
Caroline Lucas MP recently withdrew her support for the NHS Commission Bill, saying that it lacks red lines on the founding principles of the NHS – that it is comprehensive and publicly funded – and so risks becoming a vehicle for privateers.
NHS England’s Five Year Forward View is a massive top down reorganisation
The reason why few Labour MPs so far support the NHS Bill is that it goes against the New Labour policy that supports a role in the NHS for private health care companies. The Shadow Health Secretary Heidi Alexander MP told us this when Support the NHS campaigners met with her in January to let her know about the damage to the NHS across England, and to ask her to vote for the NHS Bill.
And like Jason McCartney MP, she too was under the illusion that the NHS Bill would involve a massive costly reorganisation.
Neither of them seem to be worried about the major top down reorganisation that NHS England is pushing through by implementing its Five Year Forward View. This involves the wholesale introduction of “new care models” and a “modern workforce”, and the sell off of as much of the NHS estate as possible. Like the Huddersfield Royal Infirmary site. It is turning the NHS into a system run along the lines of the American health company United Health – the previous employer of the Chief Executive of NHS England.