Our ref: rw\fromzogA\100211
10 February 2011
Dear Dr Alienfromzog
Thank you for contacting me regarding the Health and Social Care Bill.
I am determined to ensure that the Government’s proposals should only enhance the services that are currently offered to patients, and not lead to the privatisation of the NHS. I believe the NHS should be there for everyone who requires it, funded from general taxation with services that respond to need, rather than ability to pay. I am pleased that we have been able to secure an increase in the NHS’ budget every year of this Parliament. I have welcomed the chance to visit medical centres and other health care service providers across the [________] constituency and feel that we should be very proud of the high standards of care that are currently available to .patients.
The proposals set out in the Health and Social Care Bill are an evolution of the plans which governments have introduced over the last twenty years. Foundation hospitals, and indeed allowing patients to choose where to be treated on the NHS, have been ideas in the NHS for the best part of a decade. The proposed changes are being developed by around six thousand GPs who have come forward to help modernise the existing system with the understanding that the savings made will be ploughed back into patient care and front-line services. The implementation of these changes is proposed to be carefully phased over the next five years and is expected to save £5 billion by reducing unnecessary administration in the NHS over this Parliament. These proposals have been developed from a number of those set out in both of the manifestos of the coalition members including the Liberal Democrat manifesto, which stated that local communities should be empowered to improve health services through elected Local Health Boards which would take over the role of Primary Care Trust Boards in commissioning care for local people and would work in co-operation with local councils.
Some of my constituents are concerned that as a direct result of these new proposals, the structure of the NHS will be fundamentally changed so that doctors and nurses act like accountants, considering the price of treatment over the needs of their patients. Frontline doctors and nurses should bring clinical leadership into NHS budgeting and must be given all the support they need to help them take decisions in the best interests of their patients. GPs are already responsible for taking decisions about NHS expenditure in terms of whether a patient needs a medicine or form of treatment but because they aren’t currently responsible for this expenditure, the Primary Care Trust has to ‘second-guess’ the decisions taken by all their GPs before deciding which services need to be offered. The proposals set out in the Health and Social Care Bill therefore allow GPs to influence the allocation of expenditure more accurately to where it is needed most. Ministers would continue to remain fully accountable to Parliament for the way in which NHS money is spent, but local services could be shaped to meet local needs through GP practices working together, rather than by designs imposed by a Primary Care Trust.
It can be very beneficial when patients are able to choose where they are treated, whether it’s in an NHS hospital or by one of the voluntary or private sector services. A number of my constituents have raised the concern that price competition in the NHS will lead to a ‘race to the bottom’ on quality in which private providers will cherry-pick the easiest cases and I am keen to ensure that this is not the case. The Government plans to establish a powerful new regulator to make certain that there is no set target for the amount of private sector involvement in the NHS and that the Government does not pay more for a private sector service than it would pay the NHS. Clear national standards of care will be set, so patients can be confident that wherever they are treated, the NHS care they receive will be of the same high standard. Consequently, choice and more competition should lead to benefits for patients who will choose from the highest quality so that competition will then be based on quality, not price.
The Health and Social Care Bill received its first reading in the House of Commons on the 3lst January. It was then granted a second reading and has been sent to a Public Bill Committee for further scrutiny in which MPs will examine the proposals at great length. It is important that these proposals are carefully considered over the coming months. You can follow the Bill’s progress at http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2010-11/healthandsocialcare.html
I have written to Andrew Lansley MP, Secretary of State for Health, urging him to consider the specific concerns that you and other constituents have raised and to explain how the Government will ensure that high standards of frontline care provision will continue to be maintained. I will contact you again on receipt of a response.
I hope that this information is helpful. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of any further assistance on this, or indeed any other matter. If you would like to discuss this issue in more detail, I would be very pleased to meet with you at one of my upcoming surgeries, which are advertised on the website: [link provided].
Lib De Mocrat MP
Liberal Democrat MP for the [________] Constituency