Health Bill passed but rocky road likely21 March 2012
After a rollercoaster ride, the Health and Social Care Bill has been passed and is expected to become law before Easter. Coalition ministers are said to have banged the Cabinet table to denote that the Bill was on its way to being passed.
The Labour party had tabled an 'emergency' debate on the Bill but it failed to stall the legislation until a decision had been made on publishing the risk register which many thought would be the final nail in the coffin for the Bill. The Labour motion was beaten down by 82 votes (328 to votes to 246) and Unison held a minute's silence outside parliament in protest.
The government dismissed the motion as having nothing to do with an emergency or helping to improve the NHS but everything to do with politics and attempting to do anything to block the Bill because this would be a major scalp for the Labour party.
The Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: "The truth is, this is political opportunism dressed up as principle. This is a debate for no purpose."
Raising the prospect of years of continuous disruption to the health service, Labour promised to repeal the Bill if it won the next election. Considering the fact that GPs are already many months into creating clinical creating commissioning groups and the Bill was merely a rubber stamp of what is rapidly becoming current practice, unravelling it all again three years later should fill unions with as much dread as they feared the Bill itself.
Labour's shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said: "The only hope that I can give to people worried about the future of the NHS today is that this might be the end of the bill but it is just the beginning of our campaign."
And Unison's general secretary Dave Prentis insisted: "We will continue to campaign hard to try and mitigate the worst excesses of this bill. Patients will have a two-tier health service and where they live will determine the healthcare they receive."