The government is taking a break from the Health and Social Care Bill in order to hear any ‘legitimate concerns’. So what does the Bill propose, why the ‘listening exercise’ – and what’s your prescription for the NHS?
When I wrote a Conversation back in January about the Health and Social Care Bill, it was clear that its contents would be hugely important to the future of the NHS.
What I didn’t expect was quite how many acres of newsprint would be dedicated to it – or that more than two months later the Health Secretary Andrew Lansley would be announcing a ‘natural break’ in its progress through Parliament.
The patient’s history
Last July, the White Paper Equity and Excellence set out Andrew Lansley’s vision for the NHS of the future, a ‘patient-centred’ service where no decision would be made ‘about me, without me,’ measured against better health outcomes rather than targets.
One of the biggest changes proposed was the way that services are planned and managed. Local Primary Care Trusts are currently responsible for making sure there are enough of the right kinds of health services in local areas.
In the future, groups of GPs (‘consortia’) would be responsible for much of this job – but opinion was mixed about whether they actually wanted to do it. Some people also feared that the NHS could effectively be ‘privatised’.
We patients were promised more choice about our treatment, and a new body called HealthWatch to look after our interests. But back then I wondered whether too much choice could mean no choice at all – and others had much stronger reservations…
The Bill has provoked enormous and heated debate across the political spectrum. The Leader of the Opposition has called it ‘a bad Bill, based on bad assumptions and dangerous ideology’, and the chairman of the British Medical Association has suggested that the ‘ideal scenario would be to withdraw it altogether.’
A break between treatments
In his statement to the Commons yesterday, Andrew Lansley recognised that ‘substantive concerns’ had been raised about the Bill, and the speed of the changes it proposes. He announced that the Government would ‘pause, listen and engage’, before making amendments to improve the plans further.
But as the Bill has already started on its journey through Parliament, could the Government really make major changes to it, even if they wanted to? The wheels already seem to be in motion, with 220 ‘pathfinder consortia’ in place, representing 87% of the country.
You’ve seen some of what the professionals had to say about the Bill, but what do you think? Would you make changes to it, and if so what? As a patient, what do you want from the NHS?