Early Day Motion 1188
I cannot be the only one of your constituents writing to you, to urge you to sign the new Early Day Motion 1188 against the amended regulations, published on 11 March under section 75 of the Health and Social Care Act 2012.
The government withdrew the earlier regulations following the public outcry, when it became clear that Ministers’ promises during the passage of the Act had not been met. In particular, the regulations removed the promised right for Trafford Clinical Commissioning Group, amongst others, to make the choices in the interest of the health of your constituents as they saw fit.
According to experts, the revisions that the government made to their earlier EDM make little difference. Just as before, the new regulations will leave local Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) no choice but to offer our NHS out to competition in almost all cases, removing other options.
The new regulations still break promises made by ministers, such as when Andrew Lansley said “There is absolutely nothing in the Bill that promotes or permits the transfer of NHS activities to the private sector” (Hansard, 13/3/12) and that it would be for “commissioners, not the secretary of state and not regulators to decide when and how competitions should be used” (letter to CCGs, 16/2/12). And when Earl Howe said “commissioners will have a full range of options.” (6/3/12)
In legal advice commissioned by 38 Degrees, David Lock QC states “The assurances given by Ministers in Parliament about the freedoms that commissioners would have…do not appear to be honoured by these new Regulations just as they were not honoured by the old Regulations.” This conflict between the regulations and ministerial promises, was an issue highlighted by the House of Lords SI scrutiny committee in its report on the first regulations, and David Lock QC goes on “I consider that the new Regulations have done little if anything to respond properly to this concern.” I understand that the House of Lords committee has since raised further concerns in regard to the new regulations.
I note that in recent days, the government has made various claims as to why these new regulations are an improvement, but that these claims are contradicted by the experts. For details, please see the annexe to this letter.
In summary, far from putting competition ‘back in its box’ as some have suggested, these regulations roll out the red carpet to it. None of this is what we were promised – it is a fundamental and undemocratic change to our NHS. I urge you again to sign the EDM 1188 (even if you do not normally sign EDMs, for this is a highly unusual EDM and the only chance for the Commons to hold the government to account). The BMA has called for a full parliamentary debate on these regulations, and the RCGP has criticised them too, saying they do not go far enough to improve things. Even Dr Mike Dixon, president of the body representing the CCGs and one of the Act’s supporters, has expressed his concern over the new regulations, saying:
“There is a danger that it still leaves open the possibility that a clinical commissioner who wants to contract with a good local provider with a strong track record, who is signed up to the aspirations of the commissioner, and is providing a good service close to people’s home, might still have to offer that service to someone else as part of a competitive tender or part of AQP.”
Please, can you do everything in your power to persuade the government to scrap these regulations and go back to the drawing board. In the mean-time, we should let the CCGs get on with the job they were promised – of making decisions which genuinely reflect their judgement of what is best for patients.