The future of thousands of health workers in Cambridgeshire and the services they provide will be affected by a crucial vote in the House of Lords today, says Cambridge Labour Parliamentary Candidate Daniel Zeichner.
Last week, the newly-established Cambridgeshire Clinical Commissioning Group invited providers to a special briefing to discuss possible ways forward -; the advertisement gives an indication of the scale of public money being spent. Around a billion pounds over the period of the contract. In their words: “The Strategic Projects Team (SPT) on behalf of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CCG, is sounding the market providers for expressions of interest to attend an industry day.”
The issue of whether services have to be opened up to private providers will be debated in the House of Lords today as Labour force a crucial vote on the Government’s NHS competition regulations, amid growing evidence of accelerating NHS privatisation.
Last year, during the passage of the Health and Social Care Act, ministers gave repeated assurances that doctors would have final say over whether to open NHS services to the market.
However, Royal Colleges have joined Labour in warning that the regulations, brought forward under Section 75 of the Act, mandate market tendering on the medical profession in all but the most exceptional circumstances.
The British Medical Association joined the Royal College of General Practitioners last week in calling for the regulations to be re-written. Marie Curie and other voluntary organisations have warned that mandatory competition will damage patient care.
Last month, under pressure from Labour, the Government was forced to withdraw and re-write the regulations. However, the independent Lords Scrutiny Committee has said that the new regulations are “substantially the same” as the originals.
Mr Zeichner says that while uncertainty and muddle continues, morale amongst staff is plummeting:
“Staff are baffled and concerned and getting very mixed messages. The Government says that they are not forcing competition onto local health services, but here in Cambridgeshire the process is under way.”