The government’s controversial Health and Social Care bill has passed all of the political obstacles in its way, and is set to become law within the next month.
The whole process which has been involved in getting the bill through has given much insight into the level of power held by our politicians – power to ultimately do whatever they please.
Amongst the professional bodies that represent the frontline medical professionals working in the NHS, virtually all were against the bill.
Organisations that demanded that the bill be completely withdrawn included the British Medical Association, Royal College of General Practitioners, Royal College of Nursing, Royal College of Midwives, UK Faculty of Public Health, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, Royal College of Radiologists and the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy.
Others raised major concerns and concluded that they couldn’t support the bill in its current form, whilst members of the Royal College of Physicians, Royal College of Psychiatrists, Institute of Healthcare Management and Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists all voted for the bill to be withdrawn.
To discuss implementation of the Bill, David Cameron held a Downing Street summit last month. All of the carefully selected guests – representing a number of professional bodies within the health service – were known to have expressed some degree of support for the Bill, or had shown willingness to work with the government.
However, of the seven known bodies who were at the summit, three later called for a total withdrawal of the bill, with the others all expressing major concerns.
It’s fair to say that although there are individuals who support the bill, the many professional bodies representing every health worker in the country are strongly opposed to the reforms.
Having already been pressured into making at least one high-profile U-turn on policy, the government was never going to back down on its plans for the health service – even in the face of almost total opposition from those who, quite frankly, know far more about the running of the NHS than politicians.
Such a massive reorganisation of the health service was also contrary to the pre-election mandate of both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats and that’s one reason why the Bill needed to be pushed through so quickly, giving the government as much time as possible to implement the changes before the next general election.
Ahead of the final vote on the bill, the coalition government faced fresh calls to publish a transitional risk register, a document detailing the known risks involved in restructuring. In defiance of the Information Commissioner and the Information Tribunal – both of whom had ordered the risk register to be published – the government refused. In any case, the government hold the power to veto such a court ruling.
And that should no longer surprise any of us. Because once elected, politicians can do just as they please.