An activist group is celebrating after a significant victory in its campaign against NHS privatisation.
After We Own It fought against members of private companies being able to sit on new NHS Integrated Care Boards (ICBs), the government has now committed to tabling an amendment with the same aim.
The new Health and Care Bill will create Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) that will be in charge of healthcare across the country. These will be overseen by ICBs.
ICSs will be made up of the NHS and local authorities, and they will decide the use of NHS resources in each local area.
We Own It launched a campaign against the bill. In particular, they focus on one section which allows members from private companies to sit on ICBs.
Labour tabled an amendment that would prevent “representatives of private providers of healthcare services” from sitting on ICBs.
Justin Madders, one of the Labour MPs who tabled the amendment, recently wrote:
Perhaps the most concerning element of the bill is that it would allow private companies to sit on the proposed new Integrated Care Boards, which will be responsible for deciding how to spend NHS money in your area, and locks patients and trade unions out.
If the bill passes, Richard Branson could have a seat at the table making decisions about how the NHS provides care in your area, but you won’t.
This reveals a great deal about who this bill is intended to serve, and who it cuts out. As it stands it ushers private companies in and leaves patients and health workers out in the cold.
Nearly 10,000 people responded to We Own It’s Call for action to send letters to the Public Bills Committee in support of Labour’s amendment.
At the latest debate of the Health and Care Bill on 14 September, health minister Edward Argar said:
we propose to bring forward a Government amendment on Report to protect the independence of ICBs by preventing individuals with significant interests in private healthcare from sitting on them.
However, Argar went on to defend the presence of private companies on Integrated Care Partnerships (ICPs), which will also be created by the bill.
There is currently a member of Virgin Care sitting on the ICS for Bath, North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire.
More work to do
Johnbosco Nwogbo, Campaigner at We Own It, said:
This is the wrong time to reorganise the NHS, and we still think this is definitely the wrong way to organise our NHS. But we are thrilled that the government has listened to the concerns of the public and recognised that allowing private companies such as Virgin Care onto NHS decision-making boards would be a blatant and unacceptable conflict of interests.
Thousands of campaigners around the country have sent a loud and clear message: that our NHS is too important to be served up to private companies.
But the fight isn’t over. Although Edward Argar’s promise of a new government amendment is on the record, nothing is guaranteed until that amendment is put in writing at the Report stage.
It is also crucial that the amendment the government puts down actually bans individuals who hold shares in private healthcare or who work for private healthcare companies from sitting on those boards, and doesn’t have any loopholes.
We Own It is encouraging supporters to write to their MPs to make sure the government follows the amendment it suggested.
Featured image via We Own It
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