Emily Thornberry Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury
Thank you for contacting me about the Health and Care Bill, which seeks to embark on a major reorganisation of our NHS at the same time as its overworked and underfunded staff are dealing with the continued fallout of the Coronavirus pandemic.
The Second Reading of this Bill took place on 14th June. As I’m sure you are aware, the Labour Party voted against it. I wanted to make it clear to you that I oppose the Health and Care Bill, and I will outline why below.
It is clear to me that the structural reorganisation of the NHS is not going to bring down waiting lists, improve cancer survival rates or deliver the high-quality mental health care many people in this country need.
Research conducted by the Labour Party has found that over 24,000 diagnosed cancer patients had to wait longer than one month to receive either their first cancer treatment, surgery or radiotherapy between March 2020 and February 2021. 400,000 NHS patients had been waiting longer than a year for routine treatment in February 2021, when this figure was less than 2,000 patients the year before.
What the government should be doing right now is supporting the NHS to tackle its backlog of patients, not wasting staff and patient resources on revising the Lansley reorganisation of the NHS, which the Labour Party also opposed.
After eleven years of cuts, neglect, underfunding and understaffing, our health and social care services have been weakened, which is what led to their vulnerability when the pandemic first hit. This Bill does nothing to address this.
Instead, it permits further outsourcing to the private sector, which would be given a place at the table on local health boards. The NHS would also not be considered the default provider of health services.
As Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade, I have been warning against the process of privatisation by stealth within the NHS. I vehemently oppose the ever-expanding marketisation of our NHS services and I have consistently demanded, alongside my Labour colleges in Parliament, a total exemption for NHS and care services from the scope of all future trade deals.
Labour tabled a reasoned amendment to the Health and Care Bill at its Second Reading, which set out why we voted against it:
“[…] because the Bill represents a top down reorganisation in a pandemic leading to a loss of local accountability, fails to reform social care, allows further outsourcing permitting the private sector to sit on local boards and fails to reinstate the NHS as the default provider, fails to introduce a plan to bring down waiting lists for routine NHS treatment or tackle the growing backlog of care, fails to put forward plans to increase the size of the NHS workforce and see them better supported, and fails to put forward a plan that would give the NHS the resources it needs to invest in modern equipment, repair the crumbling NHS estate or ensure comprehensive, quality healthcare.”
As Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, has said, this is the wrong Bill at the wrong time. Please be assured that Labour will continue to make the arguments against the Health and Care Bill load and clear when it returns to the House of Commons in the autumn.
Thank you again for contacting me about this important issue. If you have any further points you would like to raise with me, please do not hesitate to get back in touch.
The Rt Hon. Emily Thornberry
Islington South and Finsbury
Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade