On Wednesday 6th January Norman Lamb MP (ex Coalition Health Minister) put forward a Bill under the 10 minute rule in Parliament for a Commission on the NHS. It was given an early date for a second reading on 11th March - the same day as the NHS (Reinstatement) Bill. It was given a long debate in the Lords on Thursday 14th January and again on Thursday 28th January it had a debate in the Commons.
This has all the hallmarks of a government backed Bill. Reading Norman Lamb's explanation of what the Bill is for (there is no text yet) it looks focused on charges.
This is supported by Stephen Dorrell (Tory ex Health Minister, ex MP) who saw no problem about being an MP and a paid adviser to KPMG at the same time.It is also supported by Alan Milburn (Labour ex-Health Minister) adviser to PwC and chair of the European Board of Bridgepoint Capital which owns Care UK.
The government needs to find a way to bring in co-payments and charges, but knows that it is politically damaging. An 'independent' commission is the solution. It means they can say it is not 'the government's fault'. Norman Lamb’s own website carries a description of what he wants the Commission to be about.
He writes: “Should we consider, as I have proposed, a dedicated NHS and Care Tax and give local areas the ability to vary it? Should we end the artificial divide between the NHS and social care?”
The greatest danger from merging the budgets of health and social care, as they stand, is that local authority social care is heavily privatised and means-tested. We have a serious concern that there will be a blurring of the edges between the two services, leaving health more open to means testing and charges.
The proposed variance in local taxes leads us ever closer to the real postcode lottery, where rich authorities can provide much more than poor ones. As Dr Clive Peedell says,‘taking the ‘N’ out of the NHS’.
Norman Lamb’s concluding line is ‘we cannot take the survival of the NHS and social care services for granted.’
We agree. The NHS is surrounded by privatisers, appearing as former Secretaries of State for Health who would like us to believe their only concern is saving the NHS. Wolves in sheep’s clothing indeed. In these circumstances we fear very much for its survival.