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Health campaigners and MPs to protest against the Health and Care Bill

Parliamentary reporter @TrinderMatt

MPS will join health campaigners outside Parliament tomorrow to condemn the Tory government’s widely criticised NHS reforms.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth and Green MP Caroline Lucas will attend the protest organised by campaign group Keep Our NHS Public (KONP) to call for the Health and Care Bill to be scrapped as it receives its second reading in the Commons.

They are warning that the legislation would see a major top-down reorganisation of the health service, resulting in a loss of local control and the possibility of a new wave of lucrative NHS contracts being awarded without competition to private companies.

The Bill will remove the compulsory competitive tendering process for health services, making it much easier for them to be contracted out to the private sector without checks.

Private providers will also be able to sit on local health boards, which co-ordinate services, if the legislation passes. 

Campaigners have also highlighted concerns over social care, as the Bill will repeal the section of the Care Act 2014 that requires councils to carry out needs assessments before a patient is discharged from hospital to social care services. Patients could be left without access to the appropriate support when leaving hospital as a result, activists point out. 

Ahead of the protest, Mr Ashworth stressed that the Bill allows private interests a “direct say” in the design and delivery of local healthcare.

“After a year in which cronyism and outsourcing has seen billions wasted on duff personal protective equipment and failing contact tracing, patients and staff know this is the last thing the NHS needs,” he said. 

“Labour will be fighting NHS privatisation and urging MPs to vote against this Bill."

KONP secretary Dr John Lister said: “Far from integrating services, this Bill could make it even easier for private companies to cherry-pick NHS contracts with minimal scrutiny or regulation.

“While we wanted to see competitive tendering halted in the NHS, we wanted the NHS to become the default provider of services, not more of the cronyism we have seen during the pandemic.”

The legislation “brings new dangers and no real benefit, and must be opposed,” he said.

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