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Sarah Wollaston: Ditching NHS Bill now would damage the service even more

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: February 14, 2012

Sarah Wollaston

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An outspoken critic of NHS reforms has said dropping controversial legislation at the 11th hour risked making the cherished public service worse rather than better.

Sarah Wollaston, a former GP and now an MP in Devon, said she opposed calls for a U-turn on NHS reform as it limps through Parliament.

As peers resumed scrutiny of the Bill, Liberal Democrat deputy leader Simon Hughes said Health Secretary Andrew Lansley should be replaced after legislation was passed.

Meanwhile, two Westcountry MPs – Lib Dem Andrew George and Labour's Ben Bradshaw – called for the Health and Social Care Bill to be dropped.

But Dr Wollaston, who previously warned of reforms being akin to "tossing a hand grenade" into local health structures, said the overhaul should not be reversed.

The Conservative MP for Totnes said: "We could end up with a worse service if we ditched the Bill now.

"We could end up with something more centralised and directive rather than have the opportunity for local family doctors to decide what is best for patients."

Dr Wollaston said many of her concerns had been addressed after the Bill was "paused" and recommendations by the Future Forum were accepted.

Tensions mounted last week when The Times quoted sources at No 10 saying Mr Lansley should be "taken out and shot" for failing to convince people, underlined by the need to add more than 1,000 amendments to the Bill.

At the heart of the change is giving GPs greater control of NHS budgets and abolishing local health trusts, though Labour argues it the service is being privatised through the back-door.

Dr Wollaston, who sits on the Health Select Committee, added: "Those people opposing it now – why weren't they saying that at the Future Forum? There are some people who have seen a bandwagon and jumped on it."

Downing Street was yesterday forced to dismiss suggestions Mr Lansley should be sacked after Mr Hughes called for the beleaguered minister to "move on" in the second half of the Parliament.

Andrew George, Lib Dem MP for St Ives, who also sits on the Health Select Committee, said: "I acknowledge that stopping the Bill would be disruptive. But not as disruptive as allowing the Bill to carry on."

Former Health Minister Ben Bradshaw, Labour MP for Exeter, said: "I have said all along it was madness to combine the biggest upheaval in NHS history with the tightest ever spending constraint."

But West peer Lord Tyler, former Lib Dem MP for North Cornwall, said the reforms would spell the demise of "pen-pushers and bureaucrats" hampering the NHS.

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  • mediclad  |  February 15 2012, 5:00PM

    Just another Tory protecting their own ends Im afraid! As a health care professional I am constantly witnessing on a daily basis the so called changes being imposed and believe me it is not for the better of the patient or the staff. The abolition of Primary Care Trusts is a total disaster, the new not for profit organisation replacing the PCT is indeed interested in profit, there is rumour that services which were provided by the PCT and that do not make enough money will be fostered out to the private sector. This is merely privatisation via the back door, which the Tories want to see more of. Therefore your taxes will be spent paying private companies to provide services, and these services will have to be profitable to please the shareholders of companies such as Serco, therefore cuts will be made to make the profit. In this year private companies will be able to apply for a licence to run emergency ambulance services, I know where I would like my ambulance crew to be trained and that is by an NHS body. So this GP is bound to say carry on with the reform as she wants to remain or get a ministerial role, in order to get that she must say 'yes sir, no sir, three bags full sir!!' and lets not forget that her healthy general practice wage will most likely be protected under these reforms but s#d the nurses, paramedics, physios, health care assistants, admin staff, cleaners. If this goes through Aneurin Bevan will be turning in his grave and a poorer, fragmented service will not provide a comprehensive health service.

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  • bluebell2  |  February 15 2012, 4:52PM

    URall wasting ur time think back to thatcher days she started the ball rolling by privatising the utilitys and now this so called coalition are carrying it on there nothing but meddlers better if they created more jobs for people the longer there out of the less they will be inclined to look for a job. bluebell

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  • Jungle_Jim  |  February 15 2012, 1:35PM

    Charles What a complete misrepresentation of the statistics The higher mortality rate of weekend admissions (which is what has been shown, not deaths at weekends) is, to a great extent, because anyone admitted to hospital at the weekend is much more likely to be an emergency because of serious illness.

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  • stagedoor  |  February 15 2012, 9:14AM

    "dave snooty & his pals" underneath their sickly, condesending, manner, hate the NHS with a vengence, chubby face ( i`m alright because my daddy left me a fortune) cameron, would love to see his mates in the city, earn huge profits from our taxes, that pay for OUR NHS, make no mistake we are on that road already, with the hugely disgusting PFI arrangements in some local health authorities, & this was introduced by " ed ( forest gump ) milliband`s friends in the last labour government! "politicians" self serving hypocrites, thieves & liars! the lot of them, remember the rule about banning employing your family/spouse to work for you, after the thieving scumbags ripped us off over their expenses, well the ban was never implemented, so the gravy train roles on! the average wage for a spouses wife working in the private sector as a secretary approx 14K a year, average wage for an M.P.`s spouse doing the same job 34K PLUS pension payments etc. not bad for answering the phone & licking a few envelopes!!!!!

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  • Mustafachat  |  February 15 2012, 8:57AM

    You only have to take one look at all the other things the conservatives have meddled with, all failures for the general public. Please give the NHS a miss, you just cant be trusted.

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  • pogle63  |  February 15 2012, 1:33AM

    The NHS could save billions of pounds a year if it stopped doling out medication on prescriptions regrdless if people actually need it or not. I know several old folk who have died and we found that some had thousands of pounds worth of unused over prescribed medicine stashed in cupboards and boxes. This happens because the system doesn`t keep up with patients, for example one goes into hospital for two or three weeks but repeat prescriptions are still issued and sent out. My mum had over £1000 worth of unused medicines in her home multiply that up and down the country. She was very ill for sure but used to let the chemist know what she did and did not need usuallt though the whole lot turned up regardless - hence the huge stash. It is a waste repeated hundreds of thousands of times up and down the country no wonder it costs so much.

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  • josdave  |  February 14 2012, 7:08PM

    Something as essential as health care should never be subject to profitability. While I agree that there is tremendous waste, mostly by inefficient managers who always seem to avoid the blame, the NHS does provide a very good essential service. As this proposed bill has met with opposition from almost everyone connected with the NHS it should be dropped altogether or shelved until made fit for purpose.

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  • Charlespk  |  February 14 2012, 5:29PM

    Does anyone really believe that the fact that more people are dying now at weekends than during the week is a coincidence? If you ran your veterinary business like it, you'd go bankrupt; which is virtually what the NHS is making this country. . Andrew Lansley has recognised this unsustainable state of affairs, so now the main protagonist just want to shoot the messenger and carry on as usual.

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  • 2jaibee  |  February 14 2012, 4:57PM

    If you haven't signed the petition yet please do. "Drop the Health Bill" http://tinyurl.com/73dzhhl

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  • Sinjis_Things  |  February 14 2012, 4:51PM

    The NHS is a wonderful organisation and the people who work in it are, generally, underpaid. On a recent visit to Torbay Hospital I was treated with respect and good humour by people who cared. What I do not understand is why Mr Cameron and his chums have to try and make a profit out of it. The "profit" in the health service is not monetary but in the fact that it is a good organisation run by good people who care for their people who use the service.

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