Ministers publish controversial ‘corporate takeover’ health and care bill

Elliot Chappell
© Marbury/Shutterstock.com
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Ministers have published the health and care bill – or the ‘corporate takeover bill’, as it is described by many. The far-reaching shake up of the NHS would see section 75 of the Health and Social Care Act 2012, which requires all contracts to be put out for competitive tender, repealed. But this is not a rolling back of privatisation. Instead, it places private companies at the heart of the health service. The bill would reshape the NHS in England with 42 new regional integrated care systems (ICSs), replacing local clinical commissioning groups. The bill provides for private healthcare providers to sit on ICS boards, which will be responsible for commissioning and bringing together NHS and local government services, and could see companies handed contracts without going through a tender process. As We Own It’s Pascale Robinson said: “The last thing [the NHS] needs right now is a dangerous overhaul which would put the private sector at the heart of our health service.”

The sentiment was echoed by Labour. “After a year when billions in taxpayers money has been handed out to Tory cronies for duff personal protective equipments and testing contracts, allowing further privatisation with no oversight will be resisted strongly by Labour,” Jonathan Ashworth said. And while the Shadow Health Secretary highlighted that Labour has long warned that the coalition government Lansley reform was wasteful and forced privatisation on the NHS, he questioned the timing of the bill: “Patients will rightly ask why the Health Secretary is now embarking on a top down reorganisation of the NHS rather than resourcing the NHS sufficiently to bring down the record waiting lists for surgery, mental health and cancer care or giving our NHS workers the proper pay rise they deserve.”

Labour is facing criticism after lifting its suspension of Trevor Phillips. The broadcaster, who is in Keir Starmer’s party branch, is being investigated over allegations of Islamophobia and was administratively suspended last year. This has now been lifted, although the case is still active. The decision did not go to Labour’s national executive committee and LabourList has been told that the investigations officer working on the case – the only Muslim staffer in Labour’s governance and legal unit – was not included in the process. Critics have highlighted a paper agreed by the Labour NEC in 2019, which stated: “Except in cases of mistaken identity, only the NEC can choose to lift a suspension and issue a warning”. Others have pointed out that this refers to concluding disciplinary actions, not lifting suspensions. Questions remain, however, as to what has changed since last year to prompt the lifting of the suspension.

Ballots started dropping this week in an election that could have significant implications for the labour movement. Unite members have until August 23rd to return their vote for the next general secretary, in what became a three-horse race last month after Howard Beckett pulled out. Outgoing general secretary Len McCluskey pitched in yesterday with an endorsement of Steve Turner. He told members that the assistant general secretary “stands for the progressive trade union outlook I have championed all my life”. A spokesperson for Sharon Graham’s campaign described it as a “desperate attempt to boost Steve Turner’s failing campaign”. Gerard Coyne meanwhile said he is “delighted” by the move, adding: “It makes the choice even clearer: if you want real change in Unite, vote for me.”

LabourList will down tools by 8pm this evening in anticipation of England’s clash with semi-final rivals Denmark. Avid football fan Starmer sent a message to the team this morning, telling the players that the whole nation is behind them. “Both on and off the pitch, they have shown the best of England,” he added. “There’s been only one song featured in our house since Saturday – it’s coming home.” Let’s hope so. Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.

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