The Coalition Government is currently finding it difficult to push its flagship Bills through parliament in the face of growing public opposition, writes ANN McKECHIN
Legislation, such as the Welfare Reform Bill, will negatively affect thousands of families across Glasgow and I am doing everything in my power along with my fellow Labour colleagues at Westminster to hold the Government to account. However, based on the volume of emails from constituents in my inbox this week, it is safe to say the Health and Social Care Bill is causing just as much concern.
I share the concern that many local people, health professionals, staff and patients have expressed about the Government’s reorganisation of the NHS in England. I have always thought the proposals are unnecessary, badly drafted and that will pose a real risk that could lead to the break-up of the NHS as a national public service.
After months of argument which has failed to show any substantial improvements, I believe the Health and Social Care Bill should be dropped. The UK Government have failed to build any form of professional, political or public consensus to support their proposals and I fear this Bill risks fragmenting and fundamentally altering a service that we all value and rely on. That is why I voted against the Government’s proposals at Third Reading and why I think it is vital that the Government now publish the professional risk assessment on the Bill’s proposal immediately so that all MP’s can be clear of the impact on our NHS BEFORE the Bill is finalised.
Many of those who contacted me were concerned that even though the Scottish Government has responsibility over the NHS in Scotland, these reforms in England will have a knock on effect. The Coalition government has described these NHS Reforms as the most comprehensive change to the service in over thirty years.
Although management of NHS Scotland has been successfully devolved for over a decade it does not exist in a vacuum and I believe it is inevitable that changes affecting 85% of patients in the UK will put pressures on the devolved nations.
Many health professionals will work on either side of the border during their career and at present, the pay and conditions terms of NHS workers and GP’s is largely the same – that could well change and some of my constituents are warning against specialists being “poached” by private health providers who may take over NHS hospitals in England.
In England, we may well see foreign companies taking over large number of GP practices and hospitals and then having a base to promote their services in Scotland and Wales.
There are also concerns about the impact on a number of important NHS coordinating bodies that work throughout the UK which will become increasingly fragmented. I know from my time as a Government minister during the swine flu pandemic how important these groups are in the event of emergencies.
Now, as spending cuts loom large I worry about what lies ahead for NHS both here in Scotland and throughout the UK. If you would like further information about the current situation in Westminster on this or any other issue, please do not hesitate to contact my office.
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