Labour have MPs backed proposals to “take a scalpel to cut the heart out” of the Government’s “hated” NHS reforms.
They supported legislation to repeal parts of the coalitions NHS reforms which Labour says have led to increased privation of the NHS by handing contracts to private sector health providers.
Tories accused Labour of hypocrisy, claiming this form a privatisation was also promoted by the last Labour government.
The National Health Service (Amended Duties and Powers Bill), promoted by Labour backbenchers was passed by 241 votes to 18, majority 223, at second reading after a fiery debate.
But it is unlikely the reforms will become law in their current form as a Private Member’s Bill without the coalition’s backing as it only has limited time to progress through the Commons and will be opposed by the Government at future stages.
However, shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said the proposals would form the basis of Labour’s Repeal Bill if it forms the next government.
Newcastle North MP’s Labour MP Catherine McKinnell said the current Government had forced hospitals to open themselves up to a privatisation agenda, which prioritises spending on competition lawyers and tendering exercises, instead of on frontline patient care.
She said: “The future of our NHS is one of the single most important issues for the overwhelming majority of my constituents – and hundreds have been in touch with me asking me to back this Bill.
“Many people across Newcastle North are appalled by the Coalition’s approach to the NHS – letting private companies cherry-pick the most profitable NHS services, regardless of patient need, and spending more money on economic regulators and competition lawyers.
“It’s time to focus on what matters to most people - prioritising patient care, not profits - and that’s why I was delighted to back this Bill today.”
Speaking in the debate, Dave Anderson, Labour MP for Blaydon, warned that private sector providers had cut wages.
He said: “Groups like Care UK have cut professional health workers’ pay by between 35 and 40 per cent.”
He asked how staff could be motivated “when they cant afford to pay their mortgage, they can’t afford to look after their kids properly?”
Labour Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham said Labour would act to stop the NHS being overwhelmed by privatisation.
He said: “(The Government) have undermined the N in NHS - they are letting our hospitals become part-privatised and they must be stopped.
“If the Government continues on its current course, the NHS will be overwhelmed in the next Parliament by a toxic mix of cuts and privatisation. If the Government stops this Bill receiving Royal Assent, then I can tell the House today it will form the basis of the Repeal Bill the next Labour government will lay before the House in May next year.”
Health Minister Dan Poulter defended the Government’s reforms and insisted they must be allowed to bed in.
He said: “I reaffirm this Government’s commitment to the founding principles of the NHS - a health service free at the point of delivery and recognising that, since its very creation in 1948 by Nye Bevan, our NHS has always been a public-private partnership.
“The aim should be to change fundamentally the way the NHS was run, to break up the monolith, to introduce a new relationship with the private sector, to import concepts for choice and competition - those are not my words, but those of Labour prime minister Tony Blair in the reforms he introduced.
“It is important the NHS is not used as a political football and services are always designed and delivered in the right way for patients. There is often too much scaremongering in these debates.”