08 October 2011

Open letter to the Lords

Here is the text of a letter from doctors in England to the Lords:

As doctors in England, we are writing to you to express our conviction that the Health and Social Care Bill will irreparably undermine the most important and admirable principles of the National Health Service, and to appeal for its rejection by the House of Lords.

Because it is universal and comprehensive, and publicly accountable, and because clinical decisions are made without regard for financial gain, the NHS is rightly regarded all over the world as the benchmark for fairness and equity in healthcare provision.

The transfer of services to private, profit-making companies will result in loss of public accountability and a damaging focus instead on low-risk areas that are financially profitable. A confused patchwork of competing providers will deliver a fragmented and inequitable service and any reliance on personal health budgets or insurance policies will further increase inequality. Because there will be a financial incentive for providing treatment patients will be over-treated, the potential costs of which are limitless. And the possibility of the commissioning role being outsourced to the private sector is also deeply concerning.

In forcing through this ill-conceived Bill, without an electoral mandate and against the strident objections of healthcare professionals, the Government is also ignoring overwhelming evidence that healthcare markets are inefficient and expensive to administer.

The public has been misled throughout, first by claims that no major reorganisation of the NHS would be undertaken, later by repeated denials that what is happening represents privatisation, and furthermore by suggestions that the Bill enjoys the support of the medical profession. We do not accept the argument that "things have already gone too far" - the enactment of some of the Bill's proposals has been premature and illegal, however some of its most damaging aspects may still be mitigated.

We believe that on moral, clinical and economic grounds, the Health and Social Care Bill must be rejected.

If you are a doctor in England and would like to put your name to this letter please email Jonathan.folb@nhs.net with your details. Feel free to circulate this letter further. Time is now very short. Do it now.

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