I back the Harris/Williams amendments on NHS reform

March 7, 2011 § 1 Comment

Author of amendments

Because of work and other commitments I’m sadly not attending the Lib Dems Spring Conference in Sheffield this weekend.

If I was there I would certainly be voting for the excellent amendments being put forward by former MP Dr Evan Harris and by the always-excellent Baroness Shirley Williams in terms of the Government’s proposed changes to the NHS.

I don’t take voting against the party leadership lightly, but I feel that this issue-of the future of our beloved National Health Service-is of such immense important that-were I in Sheffield-that is what I would find myself doing.

There is no doubt that we always need to be reviewing our NHS and checking that is serving the people of this country well.

The NHS, with its beginnings in Liberal thinking, though it was brought into being by Labour-is deeply ingrained in the heart of our party and we must tinker with it only when we feel it is absolutely necessary and, even then, with extreme caution.

The Coalition Government has put forward a root and branch reform of how the NHS runs and whilst some recommendations are to be welcomed, it’s true that I have my concerns about other parts of it…which is why I back the following changes sought by Harris and Williams:

* No decision about the spending of NHS funds to be made in private and without proper consultation, as can take place by the GP consortiums proposed by Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary.

* Restoration of the NHS as the prefered provider, only allowing new providers where there is no risk of “cherry-picking” that would destabilise the existing NHS.

* NHS commissioning retained as an entirely public function, rather than the subcontracting of commissioning to private companies.

* Continued separation of the commissioning and provision of services to prevent conflicts of interest.

* And, healthcare commissioning to be carried out by locally elected health boards or local authorities, with the ability to vary a fair local tax in order to invest in local healthcare services.

I agree with each of these eminently sensible amendments-which don’t seek to stimy reform, but to make sure the reforms don’t change the very nature of the NHS.

These amendments also set out a liberal vision for the future of our Health Service.

I’d urge all Lib Dem members who are going to Sheffield to support the Harris/Williams amendments.

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