NHS bill is a danger to us

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The reduction in local, frontline NHS services described by Roy Pearce (letters, February 23) is representative of the deterioration reported across the country. The national target says that 90 per cent of patients must be treated within 18 weeks of first referral by a GP. In the past year the percentage of people waiting more than 18 weeks is up 43 per cent on the previous year and this is likely to get much worse if the NHS bill becomes law.

Currently most NHS hospitals are only allowed to get about two per cent of their income from private patients. Lansley’s bill raises the cap to 49 per cent. As the government is determined to save money and the NHS hospitals will be under a huge amount of pressure to raise income from any source possible. If the bill becomes law NHS facilities – hospital beds, diagnostic procedures like x-rays, scans, endoscopies, etc, as well as therapeutic procedures such as physiotherapy, chiropody, etc – will increasingly be used for private patients with the inevitable result that waiting lists for non-paying patients will grow longer.

The risk assessment that had to be conducted to set out the potential hazards of the proposed changes to the NHS is so damning that the government is refusing to publish it despite being ordered to do so. Even some Tory MPs believe it should be made available so that the bill, which is currently being debated in the House of Lords, can be given the scrutiny it deserves. However, it comes as no surprise that our own MP voted with the government to keep the risk register secret. So much for freedom of information! Little wonder that Andrew Lansley was keen to include in his bill a clause which ensured that the Health Secretary would no longer be held accountable for any shortcomings in the NHS.

In the face of overwhelming opposition from the medical and nursing professions numerous amendments have been made to the Bill but, as reported recently in the Lancet, a respected medical journal, “these amendments do not affect the heart of the policy behind the Bill, which is to introduce a mixed financing system and to abolish the model of tax-financed universal health care on which the NHS is based.”

Those of us with long experience of working in the NHS listen with dismay and disbelief at the misinformation trotted out by Cameron and Lansley almost daily and find their assertions that the NHS is not being privatised equally unbelievable. The NHS bill is a danger to our health, and should be scrapped.

Dr Trevor Hyde

Wirksworth