MP Jonathan Reynolds has urged the Government to drop the controversial Health and Social Care Bill, in a debate that was sparked by a Tameside GP’s online petition.
More than 174,000 people have backed a petition started by Dr Kailash Chand OBE, calling on the Government to ‘Drop the Bill’.
And, on Tuesday, MPs scrutinised the Bill, which could become law as early as the end of this month.
Mr Reynolds paid tribute to the work of Dr Chand and to the success of the NHS – while pointing to the impact the planned changes could have to the services on offer and the relationship between patients and their GP.
He also pointed to the reluctance of the Government to listen to the thousands of people who have signed petitions against the changes and the professional organisations that have objected to it.
"The Government are just not willing to listen to the people who will be affected by the Bill. Kailash is not alone in opposing it. If I read out the name of every organisation that opposes the Bill, I would run out of time.
". . . It is clear that the majority of non-biased, objective opinion is against the Bill proceeding. Never in the field of public policy have so many opposed so much and been listened to so little."
Mr Reynolds pointed to the NHS’ success since 1997 in cutting waiting times, lowering infant mortality, increasing life expectancy, decreasing the number of deaths due to cancer and reducing infection rates.
He dismissed the idea that the measures in the Bill were ‘evolutionary’, and said that the plans were a top-down restructuring of the NHS.
He said: "The Labour Government introduced reforms, which used the private sector to the advantage of the NHS. The Bill does the opposite and uses the NHS for the benefit of the private sector. The problem is not reform, but these reforms."
And outlining some of the problems in the Bill, he said: "If the Bill is passed, perhaps one of the biggest changes will be to the relationship between doctor and patient.
"Every time a patient is not referred for some sort of specialist treatment, they will wonder whether that is on clinical grounds or because their GP has one eye on the budget.
"Whatever the basis for those fears, GPs will be in a difficult position, and because NICE guidance will no longer be compulsory, the problem will be compounded when people compare their experiences with that of others, using the internet or other means.
"However the most worrying aspect derives from the stories that we hear from parts of the country where individual GPs might have a financial interest in the services that they now commission. Such a relationship would not only destroy the trust at the heart of the system, but provide perverse incentives for how it might develop in future."
Mr Reynolds had initially applied to the Backbench Business Committee for a debate on the Bill, in line with the Prime Minister's commitment that any petition gaining 100,000 or more signatures would be debated in Parliament.
His application, earlier this month, was refused – but the Bill was subsequently chosen for an Opposition Day debate by the Labour Party.
During the Opposition Day debate, Mr Reynolds paid tribute to Dr Kailash Chand. He said: ". . . I will say a few words about my constituent, Dr Kailash Chand, who began the e-petition against the Bill, which has reached 174,000 signatures.
"Kailash has been a GP in my area for 27 years. He has been awarded an OBE for his work and in 2009 he was named north-west GP of the year.
"He has dedicated his life to public health. At times he has spoken out against Government policy, whoever has been in charge. His motivation in creating this e-petition was solely his love for and belief in the NHS. We should be grateful for such public servants. I am delighted that he is here today."
You can see the debate at http://news.bbc.co.uk/democracylive/hi/house_of_commons/newsid_9704000/9704726.stm
Jonathan speaks at 1:46:40