NHS is not a supermarket, Dr Sentamu warns

13 October 2011

by staff reporters

BISHOPS have voiced concerns about the Government’s proposals to reform the NHS, and have demanded significant changes to the Health and Social Care Bill.

The Bill went to the Lords on Tuesday, and peers rejected a motion to delay it by referring it to a select committee. Ministers have warned that any delay could kill off the Bill, which would increase competition in the NHS with more private providers, and put GP-led consortia in charge of buying care in their areas.

The Bill has already been altered substantially after extensive criticism from NHS staff and Liberal Demo­crat MPs.

But the Bishop of Bristol, the Rt Revd Mike Hill, speaking in the Lords, said that there were “still major problems . . . that require to be addressed before it can be supported”.

He said that the Bill “ran the risk of breaking the obligation of the Government to take responsibility for healthcare in the nation”.

He also criticised the complexity of the NHS structures that would be introduced under the proposals, which would make it difficult to see where decision-making powers lie.

The Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, has also questioned the proposals, in an article published on the web this week.

He said: “We must never allow health provision in this country to become exclusive. Decent health care should not solely be the preserve of those that can afford to purchase it. I am certainly not persuaded by internal competitive markets when one is treating very ill patients.”

Dr Sentamu has recently recovered from emergency surgery to remove his appendix.

He warned: “Whilst we may strive to deliver value for money, we cannot allow care to be market-led or commercialised to the point where patients’ safety is put at risk. You cannot compare an NHS hos­pital to a supermarket. . .


“All health-care systems have their limitations, but in the NHS we have a wonderful institution with fan­tastic staff who are doing their best to serve and treat us”

Speaking as the debate continued in the Lords on Wednesday, Dr Sentamu said: “With remarkable speed, we are being committed to radical, long-term policies for which no one voted. At the very least, there is an understandable anxiety about what democracy means in such a context.”

He repeated the view, expressed by a number of Peers, that the Bill “has no mandate … Joe and Jane public did not vote for it. This is why there is anxiety in the nation and that is why there is a lot of worry about it”. The Government should “allow proper scrutiny of the areas that have caused the greatest anxiety”.

On Wednesday afternoon, an amendment to block the Bill altogether, tabled by Lord Rea, was defeated by Peers, by 354 to 220. Dr Sentamu, Bishop Hill, the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Richard Chartres, the Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Revd Tim Stevens, and the Bishop of Wakefield, the Rt Revd Stephen Platten, voted against the amendment. The Bishop of Bath & Wells, the Rt Revd Peter Price voted in favour.

An amendment, tabled by Lord Owen, a former neurologist and hospital registrar, calling for part of the Bill to be sent for further scrutiny to a special select committee, was also defeated, by 330 to 262. Bishop Price voted in favour and Bishop Hill voted against the amendment.

Yesterday insepctors from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) released finding describing the standard of care for the elderly in hospitals in England as “alarming”. Inspections of 100 sites requested by the Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, after critical reports from campaigners identified concerns in 55 cases. The chair of the CQC, Dame Jo Williams, said: “The fact that over half of hospitals were falling short to some degree in the basic care they provided to elderly people is truly alarming and deeply disappointing. This report must result in action.”

Mr Lansley said: “Everyone admitted to hospital deserves to be treated as an individual, with compassion and dignity. We must never lose sight of the fact that the most important people in the NHS are its patients.”

Janet Davies, speaking for the Royal College of Nursing, accepted that there could be “no excuse”, but said that the squeeze in finances was making it harder to keep standards high on wards.

Support for mental-health issues. A pack of worship materials on the subject of mental health is available as a free download from the Time to Change (TCC) website.

It was launched on 10 October to mark Mental Health Day, and will remain available for churches, with other free materials from the organ­isation.

To mark the day and celebrate the launch of the pack, members of the Archbishops’ Council’s Committee for Ministry by and with Deaf and Disabled People, and others, signed a pledge to support the TTC campaign to end discrimination against people with mental-health issues.


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