UNISON “bitterly disappointed” by peers decision to vote through controversial Health and Social Care Bill

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The TUC has said yesterday was a “deeply depressing day for the NHS”.

The comments come after the amendment moved by Lords Owen and Hennessy was defeated by 330 votes to 262 – a majority of 68 – meaning the controversial Health and Social Care Bill could become law within six months.

Trade unions had backed the amendment that called for the whole of part three of the Bill – which deals with increasing competition in the NHS – to be referred to a special Select Committee so it could be studied in more detail.

But speaking in the House of Lords yesterday afternoon, Lord Howe urged peers to vote against the amendment, warning a delay “it could prove fatal” to the legislation.

That was precisely why trade unions and health professionals wanted peers to vote in favour of the amendment.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “It is a deeply depressing day for the NHS but under our ‘All Together for the NHS’ campaign we will continue to work with all the NHS unions, royal colleges and professional associations to highlight the devastating impact these proposals could have on our NHS.

‘The government should be listening to the concerns of the people that know the NHS best – the staff that work in the health service. They fear that the Bill will lead to increased competition and the extension of markets within the health service to the detriment of patient care, where people without the means to pay are pushed to the back of ever-growing waiting lists.

‘And let’s not forget these huge changes come at a time when the NHS is already being asked to find £20bn of efficiency savings and risks losing over 50,000 NHS jobs.’

Christina McAnea, UNISON Head of Health, said: “We are bitterly disappointed that too many Lords failed to listen to the groundswell of opposition from the public, health professionals, charities, staff and unions to the dangers of the Health and Social Care Bill.  It was a missed opportunity.  Everyone was counting on them to rescue the NHS from the worst of the Tories’ excesses – and they have let them down.

“They should have voted to throw it out, or at the very least, supported the Owen amendment and refer the Bill to a special select committee.  The NHS is too precious to rush through this Bill without the scrutiny the public wants and deserves.

“Today the Lords failed to save the NHS, but there is still a long way to go before this Bill goes through.  UNISON will continue to keep up the pressure to make changes to this destructive Bill.  The Coalition Government will rue the day that Lansley’s Bill signalled the end of the NHS as we know it”.


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