Kailash Chand: The e-petition for the NHS passes 153 000 votes

Kailash ChandThe e-petition calling on the government to drop its Health and Social Care Bill has now reached 153 000 signatures to become the second most popular campaign on Number 10’s official petition site. It already qualified for a debate in the House of Commons, when it passed the 100 000 signatures milestone. Some 90% of general practitioners, celebrities including Stephen Fry, Rio Ferdinand, and Jamie Oliver, three Cabinet ministers, and a good part of David Cameron’s own party (see Tim Montgomery’s blog) don’t want the bill. Rarely have doctors, nurses, and the public been so united on a political question. Sadly, David Cameron is closing his eyes and ears.

All those who dismiss June Hautot, the 75 year old pensioner who confronted Andrew Lansley at the gate of Downing Street yesterday as a political agitator should remember she is from a generation that predates the formation of the NHS, and who can remember the unfairness of a world before universal healthcare. They are understandably concerned by the push for privatisation that is leading us back towards that state. Those who value and support the NHS will not stand idly by, whilst politicians try to force through such flawed and dangerous legislation for the sake of political expediency, rather than what is best for the health of the nation.

There is no democratic mandate for this bill. NHS workers and members of the public did not ask for this bill and do not want this bill. Yesterday the prime minister held an emergency NHS summit that shut out the British Medical Association, the Royal College of Nursing, and other NHS workforce organisations who beg to differ too much. Furthermore, now even some Tories are joining the Liberal Democrat’s and Labour’s calls to publish the official “risk register” detailing what could go wrong, but Andrew Lansley continues to resist this. This does not bode well for democracy.

Andrew Lansley’s three key principles underpinning his reforms are that it will empower patients, empower clinicians, and focus on clinical outcomes, but these have been exposed as a smokescreen for introducing a new external market into the NHS, which will lead to increasing NHS commercialisation, privatisation, and the abolition of the National Health Service as a comprehensive healthcare system.

I’ve got 30 years experience of working in the NHS, from a junior doctor to a GP, and then chair of a PCT. In my fairly extensive experience you can make most things work—even across organisational and health and local authority boundaries—if you have the right working relationships which develop over time through honesty, openness, and trust. The way this bill has been managed by the Department of Health and the government is a stunning example of how not to do things. The bill’s very originality has been changed, and its details have been rewritten. After 1000 plus amendments in the House of Commons, ministers recently tabled over 100 more in the House of Lords. In the future I have little doubt that it will be held up as an example of just how not to manage something and of how one coalition government managed to very quickly destroy one of the world’s best health systems.

Cameron and Lansley keep insisting that some GPs are already implementing the reforms which therefore proves that it is a successful policy. They point to improved Accident & Emergency statistics for 2011 and say this is linked to Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) pathfinder led policies. What a load of rubbish. I can’t think of a single major “policy” that is the result of CCGs. CCG’s commissioning intentions and QIPP plans are those of their PCTs with a few tweaks here and there. The plans they do bring forward are remarkably ordinary and simply reflect the old world of practice based commissioning models, tinkering round the edges of community and primary care services.

I accept NHS reforms are needed to tackle increasing patient needs and financial pressure on the NHS, but the government’s proposed changes will do nothing to help this. I therefore believe that it is in the national interest for David Cameron to allow the debate, as demanded by 153 000 (and counting) people who signed the e-petition, and withdraw the bill. We can then work together to sort out the mess it has already created.

You can view the e-petition at: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/22670

Kailash Chand has been a GP for last 30 years and is now chair of the NHS Trust Tameside & Glossop. He was on the BMA council and general practitioner’s committee until last year. He was awarded an OBE in 2010 for services to the NHS. He writes for the Guardian, and other regional and national publications on health matters.

  • Dr Aseem Malhotra

    Totally agree with Dr Chand. There is only one solution now and that is to drop the bill. Given the overwhelming opposition, going ahead with it now is not only an insult the the dedicated staff of the NHS, but will be a travesty for democracy.

  • Chris_90

    Thank you Dr. Chand. Please keep fighting for all our sakes. 

    This whole terrifying debacle has highlighted 2 things for me:

    1) We need to pay politicians properly so we can ban them completely from having ANY outside interests or corporate connections. We also need to find a way to monitor & regulate party donations more effectively. They must exclusively serve the British people. Care UK wouldn't agree though!

    2) Medical professionals must be given a platform to speak from. More of them must come out and air their views. The British public is being asked to support or not something that they can't possibly understand in full without your input. We must also learn to value to opinions of such qualified & experienced professionals. This completely contrary to what Lansley believes or so his recent actions suggest. The BMA, the GPs, Nurses, the Faculty for Public Health etc must all express themselves, their insight and be heard!

    Thanks again.

  • Worriedchild

    I have been traveling over the world for past 25 years and am in England for this week before going back to India. I have seen many private systems, and most importantly that of US, I have always been thinking that UK people have perhaps the best thing at hand. In US it is so expensive to seek health care and it has led to several problems that were in news since recent Administration took over. I have always thought why India did not inherit this system from UK.  I believe UK should not loose its NHS over the proposals of privatising it. If at all the Administration believes the existing system needs management overhaul or better training or motivation or any mechanism to improve the existing system   they could attempt that rather that trusting that “private” would be the best. I asked few people this morning if they know what is in store for them as users if it changes, they did not understand much. This calls for explaining to people simply what is coming there way. Anyway now that debate is hotting up and political interests are clear, it is better drop the idea at the moment.   Talk to people what they want and that would bring more fruits to both people and administration.