On 24 separate occasions since the NHS Bill became law, Andy Burnham and Ed Miliband have said that they will repeal the NHS Bill. Upon closer examination of their detailed comments about what form this will take, we can say that they include:
1. Awarding the NHS Preferred Bidder Status in the tendering process.
2. Repealing the 49% Cap of Private Sector Involvement in the NHS.
3. Preventing CCGs commissioning to themselves.
4. Reforming MONITOR but in a way that is unclear.
None of this goes far enough and to me it is no wonder that an NHS party has been formed with a view to contesting seats at the next election. Below, I outline the policies Labour should be embracing on the NHS if we are to present ourselves as a radical alternative to the Tories on Health.
1. We need to support François Hollande's attempts to enshrine in EU Law the right of all EU citizens to have access to a publicly funded healthcare system. This important principle, if agreed, would have the added benefit of reducing health tourism as well as extending the rights we have enjoyed since 1948 to other EU citizens including those in our neighbouring Irish Republic.
2. We need to seek opt outs of EU regulations 103 & 104 that open up the NHS to EU Competition Law. This can be done by legislation in the sovereign parliament exempting our healthcare from these elements of EU. It could also be further secured by coordinating Hollande's planned EU law to include protection from public health systems from competition law.
3. A De-Marketisation Act: We need to commit to de-marketising our health service. The crude image of a la carte menus of operations offered, and their prices, runs alien to the ethos of our healthcare. I should not know that £107 will get my partner a pregnancy scan. I should not know that £199 gets me an MRI scan. I should not receive brochures and pamphlets inviting me to book special rooms at a NHS Hospital or NHS Hospital Hotel for the duration of my operation. A complete an utter de-marketisation of our public healthcare is required, perhaps through a de-marketisation bill. NHS Hospitals should be cashless societies.
It might also be necessary to explore all of the structures that Lansley's bill has created. If the CCGs were to remain then the Senate should be given teeth. Monitor could be dramatically downgraded and its powers dispersed to regional NHS Senates. Healthwatch pending its effective functioning should also potentially be retained and given powers to refer matters to the judiciary if need be.