The government has a Health & Care Bill which it claims will not harm the NHS. Here, for example, is the reply sent by an MP to her constituent – according to which there is nothing to fear in the Bill at all.

But when the House of Lords tries to amend the Bill to protect the NHS, the government simply scraps their amendments.

This article shows why this matters to you and your family.

The Health & Care Bill puts day-to-day running of the NHS under the control of Integrated Care Boards (ICBs); when the House of Lords tried to make sure that healthcare corporations will not dominate NHS governance, the government overturned their amendment.

The Lords wanted this protection for the NHS:

“(4) Each integrated care board must set out in its constitution— (a) the arrangements for managing conflicts and potential conflicts of interest in such a way as to ensure that they do not, and do not appear to, affect the integrity of the board’s decision-making processes, (b) the process by which any appointment of a member to the integrated care board or any appointment to any committee or sub-committee of the integrated care board that has a commissioning function must be made so as to avoid the appointment of anyone who would be perceived to have a conflict or potential conflict of interest, and (c) the arrangements for ensuring that no member of any committee or sub-committee of the integrated care board who has a conflict or potential conflict of interest obtains access to information that might be perceived to favour the interest or potential interest.”

The government objected to protecting the integrity of the ICBs’ decision-making processes and simply removed the teeth from that amendment:

“(4) If the constitution includes provision under this paragraph allowing committees or sub-committees to exercise commissioning functions, the constitution must— (a) provide for the members of any such committee or subcommittee to be approved or appointed by the chair of the integrated care board, and (b) prohibit the chair from approving or appointing someone as a member of any such committee or sub-committee (“the candidate”) if the chair considers that the appointment could reasonably be regarded as undermining the independence of the health service because of the candidate’s involvement with the private healthcare sector or otherwise.”

If I am the chair, in other words, I am prohibited from doing anything I consider I should not do. What kind of safeguard is that!?

This matters because under UK law, directors of corporations have a legal duty to their shareholders, not to patients or taxpayers. So when it comes to making decisions about what services will be provided by each ICB, they will be taken on the grounds of what maximises profitability not what meets the needs of the local population.

Increasingly, the NHS will be run for the benefit of shareholders – not for our benefit. Little by little, through a process of ‘stealth privatisation,’ the UK healthcare system will come to resemble the US system (the worst in the developed world from the patient and tax-payer perspective, but the best from the shareholder perspective).

That will be a disaster for us. The US system is hugely expensive even for those with insurance; it provides worse healthcare outcomes (life expectancy in the US is around 3 years less than in the UK); and it is responsible for two-thirds of US personal bankruptcies. As the BBC reported,

This is the list of what Laura Marston has sacrificed to keep herself alive: Her car, her furniture, her apartment, her retirement fund, her dog. At 36 years old, she has already sold all of her possessions twice to afford the insulin her body needs every day. One vial of the insulin Ms Marston uses now costs $275 (£210) without health insurance.”

Even now, it is not too late to add your voice and help to protect the NHS. You can sign the open letter and write to your MP letting him or her know that you will not vote for any MP who is complicit in the destruction of the NHS.

And please sign-up and join the 99% Organisation.