NHS Reinstatement Bill
Thank you for contacting me about the proposed NHS Reinstatement Bill. I am fully committed to ensuring that the NHS always remains free at the point of use and access is based on need and not someone's ability to pay.
The NHS Reinstatement Bill calls for a long list of NHS reforms, including the abolition of the purchase-provider split and the reestablishment of District Health Authorities. I think that in practice, many of these changes would be unworkable and lead to a complex and time-consuming structural reorganisation of the NHS at a time when it needs stability. Such a reorganisation would be both costly and unnecessary.
Instead, I want to make sure that the NHS is protected and funded properly so that it can continue to provide a first class service for UK residents. I'm pleased that Lib Dem Health Minister Norman Lamb has announced that if the Liberal Democrats form part of the next Government we will not only protect the NHS budget, but boost NHS funding by £8bn a year by 2020. This extra cash is in line with the recommendation of a recent report into the future of the health service from NHS Chief Executive, Simon Stevens.
We will also commission an independent fundamental review of NHS and social care finances in 2015, before the next spending review, to assess the pressures on the NHS and social care budgets.
Liberal Democrats in Government have introduced measures to ensure that patients are at the heart of NHS decision-making. We are improving support for mental health services and we are making sure that health and social care is better co-ordinated to meet the needs of patients and their carers. Cutting NHS bureaucracy has saved over £1bn a year, allowing significant increases in the recruitment of frontline staff. There are now 13,000 more doctors, nurses and other frontline staff than in 2010.
As well as being financially well-supported, the NHS must be run fairly too. That's why Liberal Democrats in Government put a stop to Labour's policies that gave private health companies special treatment. Labour paid £250m to these companies for operations that were never performed. They also paid private sector providers on average 11% more than the NHS for the same service. This kind of favouritism has now been made illegal.
Proper accountability and transparency in the way the NHS is run is also vital, and I'm pleased that Liberal Democrats have ensured that local authority Overview and Scrutiny Committees will now be able to get evidence from any healthcare provider - including private ones - and summon them to a public scrutiny committee sessions.
The proposed NHS Reinstatement Bill also raises concerns about the potential impact of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) on the NHS. I hope I can reassure you that TTIP does not put the future of the NHS at risk. It will have no effect on the ability of local NHS commissioners to decide who delivers services to patients and the European Commission has clarified that public services will be explicitly ruled out from the scope of any market liberalisation in TTIP.
Liberal Democrats will always oppose any attempts to privatise the NHS. Like previous Governments, we accept that there is a role for the private and charitable sectors in the NHS. Organisations like MacMillan and the Terrence Higgins Trust have provided important services for patients. But we strongly believe that the NHS should always remain free and access should be based on need and not the ability to pay. These principles form the core of our health policy and will remain a key part of our plan to create the fairer society we all want to see in the UK.