by Ray Fleming

Britain's coalition government finally pushed its National Health Service reform Biil through Parliament on Tuesday night with a House of Commons majority of 88. In the Bill's tortuous progress over the past year there have been one thousand government amendments to it and 374 changes made by the House of Lords. Even with these changes the provisions of the Bill are still opposed in principle and detail by the great majority of representative bodies of medical professionals in the NHS and by staff trade unions.

Essentially, the Bill will give control of much of the NHS's 106 billion pound budget to General Practioners with the aim of saving about one-third of existing administration costs. Only time will tell whether this radical untested reform will work but even if it does so in financial terms there are also concerns about whether it will lead to extensive privatisation of the NHS. The government's handling of fundamental NHS reforms which were not included in its election manifesto has been poor from start to finish, with the Health Secretary Andrew Lansley mainly to blame but David Cameron also at fault. In the final Commons debate the shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham said Labour would repeal the reorganisation “at the first opportunity”. That blanket threat can only lead to further doubts and delays in implementing the reforms and should not have been made.

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