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Health Bill passes first stage in Parliament – PRimage comment

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

As a specialist healthcare communications consultant, PRimage MD Judy Viitanen, has been following the progress and debate on the Government’s comprehensive reforms of the NHS. The Health and Social Care Bill is a complex and far reaching piece of legislation, reflecting the wide ranging nature of the Government’s programme of reform for the NHS in England.

PRimage is largely supportive of the potentially positive elements of the reforms – we believe giving clinicians greater responsibility for commissioning and shaping local health services, increasing public and patient involvement, and putting a greater focus on improving public health are to be applauded. And it must not be forgotten that the NHS needs to find efficiency savings of £20 billion by 2014-15!  In our view it is important that the Government ensures that the new GP consortia are not forced to promote competition between providers – and instead are able to work collaboratively across primary and secondary care boundaries in order to improve services for patients.

As a former District Councillor, Judy Viitanen welcomes the Government’s aim of increasing local democracy in health and that it recognises the importance of health services and local authorities working more closely together for the benefit of patients and the public. That can only be a win:win scenario.

In recent weeks there has been mounting criticism of the reforms from health professionals. For example, the BMA has warned that patients will become ‘internal medical tourists’, with the wealthy shopping round for consortia that offer expensive or rare treatments.

Despite a raft of warnings and concerns, the government’s controversial Health Bill has passed the first stage of its journey through Parliament – with MPs voting 321 to 235 in favour at its second reading. PRimage was interested to see that no coalition MPs voted against the Bill.

The influential cross-party Health Select Committee has already voiced concern and warnings, saying that the ‘surprise’ decision to abolish PCTs had already led to poor decision-making and additional costs in the NHS. But yesterday the Health Secretary Andrew Lansley dismissed their concerns.  And last month David Cameron revealed that GP frustration with the NHS, the profession’s desire to do more and be more involved is the core motivation behind the Health Bill.

If that is the case, PRimage MD, Judy Viitanen, wonders why Doctor’s union, the BMA is stepping up its opposition to the reforms, and has voted for a special representatives’ crisis meeting to discuss the Health Bill.