Lords pass the NHS Bill - but it’s on life support
Talking Point: The Government is so determined to pass its health reform Bill, the details no longer matter
THE HOUSE OF LORDS has voted against amendments that would have seen Health Secretary Andrew Lansley's Health and Social Care Bill shelved. But some say it may be time to kill it off anyway.
NHS needs clarity
Anyone who questions the importance of reforming the NHS need only read today's damning Quality Care Report, says an editorial in The Daily Telegraph. It finds that elderly patients are not being properly fed or looked after and a lack of basic "kindness and compassion".
In an effort to address these "scandalous flaws", the coalition has embarked on yet another radical overhaul with Andrew Lansley's Bill. It successfully negotiated obstacles in the Lord's yesterday, but depressingly, some Labour and Lib Dem figures are digging in for a war of attrition. Yet, what the NHS really needs is "clarity and certainty about its future".
Lack of accountability
Unfortunately, the new NHS doesn't offer clarity, says Steve Richards in The Independent. A major focus of the debate in the House of Lords yesterday was about just that. In the proposed reforms, the new lines of accountability are far from clear and it seems that under the plan the Health Secretary "would not be accountable for very much at all".
In theory the aim is to take power away from the centre, and empower the patients. But what it really shows is the Government's ideological resistance to government accountability at the centre. Yet when huge sums for the NHS are being raised centrally, the Health Secretary must be responsible. "If he won't, then who will?"
Lords let us down
The peers could have been the salvation of the NHS, says Zoe Williams in The Guardian. When several Lords called for greater scrutiny of the reform Bill, it could have slowed it into oblivion. Unfortunately, the Lords voted "sod off and live with an unaccountable secretary of state and an external marketplace".
So we lost, blogs Labour peer Joan Bakewell in the New Statesman. In the end Labour didn't have the numbers. The Bill will now go to committee stage when a cascade of amendments will be tabled, and perhaps significant changes brought to this unwieldy and unwelcome Bill. But every inch gained will be worth it. "The British public want the NHS to survive as they know it, only better."
Kill the Bill
The Bill may have survived the House of Lords, but it is on life support, says Camilla Cavendish in The Times. It is now "encrusted with amendments" and "weighed down with a profusion of quangos". The irony is, there isn't even anything truly transformational in the Bill that requires legislation. Competition "wasn't invented by the Health Secretary Andrew Lansley" – it began under Labour.
But while the experts argue, the NHS is going bust. Trouble is, so much political capital has been sunk into the Bill, the Government is determined to see it pass and no one cares about the details anymore. "But it is time to put it out of its misery." ·
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