Monday, 13 June 2011

Pugh on Health Bill: 'back to the trenches'

When the history of these times comes to be written the role that the Southport MP has played in rescuing the NHS from the worst excesses of the Lansley proposals will be given significant prominence. John was not one of those who had a 'late conversion' to opposing the Bill, from the outset he identified the major weaknesses and worked tirelessly to challenge them. He consulted widely with those involved in providing health care and with the party (see this early posting on Lib Dem Voice). The announcement that radical changes are to be made are a vindication of his actions. In a statement this morning John makes clear that although real progress has been made there is still work to do. It seems that the Bill will now go to another scrutiny stage by a committee of MPs which will include the Southport MP. 

One thing is certain, if the Tories had got an overall majority at the last election then the Lansley changes would have been rammed through.

Sefton has been well represented on the Lib Dem side with Baroness Williams of Crosby taking a prominent stand. Her views are covered in an article she has written for today Independent . John Pugh was widely reported yesterday for example in the Observer

John statement this morning reads:

Southport MP John Pugh says that he is quietly pleased that the governments planned legislative changes to the NHS have first been halted and now been radically altered. 

John who is Chair of the Lib Dem Parliamentary Health Group has been demanding big changes in the unpopular plans of Health Andrew Lansley ever since they were first proposed last July. He helped draft the critical motion at the Lib Dem Spring Conference that undermined political support for the bill.0ver the last few weeks he organised summits between NIck Clegg, senior health professionals and doctor and nurses leaders to hammer out big changes in the plans.

"Without threatening patients' choice, I believe we have prevented fragmentation and anarchic competition in the NHS- as well as increasing local people's ability to influence local services. The government have moved away from the Lansley revolution to a more sensible and more practical set of changes. There are still some battles ahead as the bill goes back into the Commons but I am convinced we are making progress."

The MP though warned of trouble ahead. "Alistair Darling in his last budget left the NHS with £20 billion pounds to find in savings over the next few years. This will be really hard nationally and locally to find unless the whole NHS becomes massively more efficient. Sadly the time wasted through Andrew Lansley's attempt to force revolution on the NHS has made the task of finding those savings even more difficult."

The MP will be involved as the Bill goes back for Committee Scrutiny in the Commons. The previous Committee session that came before the government's unexpected "Listening Exercise" was itself one of the longest committee sessions in parliaments recent history. "Its a worthwhile and important battle", says the MP ," but it can feel a as though one is being sent back to the trenches! " 

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