Speaking in the House of Commons last night, Rushanara Ali MP called on the Government to listen to people and drop their damaging NHS Bill.
"I appeal to the Government to think again, to think about the people of this country and to think about the people like those in my constituency who desperately need an NHS free at the point of delivery and free for those who need it. Those people do not need the marketisation and competition that are going to damage the health service. I call on the Government to drop the bill."
The Labour Party had organised an Opposition Day Debate on a motion calling on the Government to drop the bill and reinforcing our continued opposition to the reforms in their current form.
Rushanara Ali MP was joined by many of her Labour colleagues in speaking out for their local communities, arguing that the Government's reforms would damage the NHS and that this would damage healthcare provision in many parts of the country.
"I hope that the Government will listen today, because in areas such as my constituency, where child poverty is higher than elsewhere - half the children in my constituency live in poverty - and where there is an inextricable link between poverty, health and life expectancy, it is vital that we have a health service that delivers for people on the ground."
The vote on the motion was unfortunately lost by 258 to 314 votes but offered another opportunity to highlight the broad opposition from the public, healthcare professionals and health organisations to the bill.
Most recently in Tower Hamlets, the local clinical commissioning group (CCG) called on the Prime Minister and the Health Secretary to halt their damaging reforms.
Local Tower Hamlets residents have also been signing up to the petition calling on the Government to think again. Cllr Rachael Saunders also said: "On the Tower Hamlets Labour mass day of action people queued up in the rain to sign our petition to drop the bill. Today we brought that petitition to Westminster. The Tory led government must listen."
The full debate can be accessed here - http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201212/cmhansrd/cm120313/debtext/120313-0001.htm#12031360000001.
Full text of speech:
Rushanara Ali (Bethnal Green and Bow) (Lab): I welcome today's motion on the Health and Social Care Bill, because I know how precious the NHS is. We must do everything possible to protect it. I am proud of the fact that the Labour party founded the NHS. In 1997, when we took over from the previous Government, we had to rebuild a health service that was under-invested in and turn it into a world-class health service, which is what it is today. We reduced waiting times and invested in creating a health care system that delivered for patients. On our watch, there were 33,000 fewer deaths from heart disease each year, and we achieved the highest ever level of patient satisfaction. In my constituency we have seen real improvements locally and real successes in Tower Hamlets, with the highest childhood vaccination rates in London, improved health for those with chronic diseases such as diabetes, and reduced mortality rates from cancer and heart disease, although there is much more to do.
The Labour party has always been at the forefront of reform where it is needed and where it would benefit people on the ground. As my hon. Friends have already pointed out, we are talking about the difference between good reform and bad reform. My party will always support reform that is good for patients, but the Government's plans do not offer that kind of reform. I have had thousands of letters and e-mails from constituents - members of the public, as well as professionals - who oppose the Bill.
Those people are opposed to the Bill. They have been campaigning and have joined the 170,000 people who have signed up to oppose the Bill. They oppose it because they know that it will damage health care. This Bill will damage life chances; it will destroy the NHS.
In Tower Hamlets we had the first clinical commissioning group calling on the Government to drop the Bill, led by the respected Dr Sam Everington, who said:
"Your government has interpreted our commitment to our patients as support for the Bill. It is not."
It is shameful that the Government carried on trying to use his name in support of the Bill. Those in the clinical commissioning group are concerned about the unnecessary bureaucracy that the changes will create and about the impact on patient care. They know that top-down reforms and restructuring will detract from their ability to care for their patients. That is what they have said. I hope that the Government will listen today, because in areas such as my constituency, where child poverty is higher than elsewhere - half the children in my constituency live in poverty - and where there is an inextricable link between poverty, health and life expectancy, it is vital that we have a health service that delivers for people on the ground. This Bill will not do that - Ministers know that, so they should do something about it.
This Bill is effectively a form of backdoor privatisation of the NHS, with up to 49% of beds going to private patients. That will hurt my constituents and ordinary people up and down the country. That is why the Government need to think again. The Bill undermines the very principle of the NHS and the inspiration behind it. It highlights the fact that we cannot trust the Conservatives - or, now, some of the Liberals - with the NHS.
Waiting times are expected to go up. Already, between May 2010 and December 2011, they have increased by 9%, and that will get worse. The Government need to take these issues seriously and start listening to people. In the east end, inequality continues to be a major concern, and we need to work together to reduce it. I reiterate the shadow Health Secretary's request that we work together on this. The Government should listen, and they should drop the Bill.
As my hon. Friends have done, I appeal to the Government to think again, to think about the people of this country and to think about the people like those in my constituency who desperately need an NHS free at the point of delivery and free for those who need it. Those people do not need the marketisation and competition that are going to damage the health service. I call on the Government to drop the Bill.