The Health and Social Care Bill passing through UK’s Parliament is prompting heated debate, says Savi Hensman. The government claims that this and other reforms to the National Health Service (NHS) will improve patient care. Campaigners fear that they reflect further steps towards privatisation and a fragmented system, which they believe will be harmful to those in most need.
Even if the government is able to push its Health Bill through Parliament in its present form, there may be a heavy political price to pay later, says Savi Hensman. A different way forward is needed for the NHS.
Newspapers have reported that the UK government is to publish a ‘Big Society’ bill, supposedly giving citizens more choice and control. In practice, this may involve offloading further responsibilities on to individuals, families and communities, forcing them to put in extra time and money or go without much-needed services.
The ‘Big Society’ is becoming a fresh political battleground over the summer, says Simon Barrow. Shrinking the state by galvanising more money and resources from private citizens through volunteering, delegating and contracting is central to the Prime Minister’s approach – both to running the country and to keeping his own party together. But the strategy is beset with disagreement, and a huge 'reality gap'.
Despite substantial, detailed criticism and concern from the medical profession, health planners and the public over his Health & Social Care Bill, Secretary of State Andrew Lansley has shown few signs so far that a genuine rethink will emerge from the government's "listening exercise".