Ealing Central and Acton MP Rupa Huq joined calls for the government to scrap its plans to pass a new Bill that would reorganise the NHS in England.  

The calls were made on 26 October at a protest outside the Houses of Parliament. 

The action comes after a poll by We Own It, the campaign for the public ownership of public services, showed that 8 in 10 people want the government to fix waiting lists and ensure that people can see their GPs face-to-face as their top priority. 

2 in 10 said reorganising the NHS should be a top priority for the government. 

The Health and Care Bill is expected to enter the next stage of its passage on 9 November, following its second reading on 14 July.  

Labour MP Rupa Huq said: “Along with my colleagues, I voted against the Bill at second reading. 

“As I made clear during a recent speech to celebrate the NHS’s 73rd birthday outside Ealing Hospital, I am committed to upholding the NHS’s founding principles as a comprehensive, integrated, and public NHS that is there for all of us when we need it.” 

The Bill will divide the NHS in England into 42 areas, called Integrated Care Systems (ICSs), each with their own budget and a board to oversee the delivery of health services for the area. 

Campaigners and trade unionists say the Bill will allow private companies to sit on the boards that oversee the new ICSs and make decisions about how the budget is spent. 

They claim that by repealing Section 75 of the 2012 Health and Social Care Act, which requires that all contracts be put through a competitive tendering process, the Bill will open the NHS to more crony contracts. 

Polls also show that 70% of the public are worried that the Bill will cause the NHS to give out these contracts without scrutiny - particularly to private companies. 

60% of those polled say they want the Bill to be amended to make NHS Trusts and Foundation Trusts the default providers of all NHS services.  

Huq added: "I am deeply concerned that this Bill represents a rushed, top-down reorganisation of our NHS. 

“It will fail to integrate health and social care, erode local accountability, and give powers to the Health Secretary to hand major contracts to the private sector without scrutiny.” 

Further local actions took place in more than 20 constituencies over the weekend, with locals delivering letters to their MP’s offices urging them to oppose the new Bill. 

The protest was organised by We Own It and Just Treatment, a patient-led group that represents the voice of patients. It was supported by charities including Unite the Union, the British Medical Association and the National Pensioners Convention. 

Johnbosco Nwogbo, lead campaigner at We Own It, said: “This Bill will put on steroids the government's corrupt contracting we've seen during the pandemic.  

“With the Secretary of State for Health set to receive increased powers in this Bill, Sajid Javid will be enabled to simply hand out contracts to party donors and friends without any kind of scrutiny”. 

He added: “It’s clear that a lot of MPs are really worried about how this bill will change our NHS and open it to being used as a profit-making venture for profit-greedy private companies within it.  

“We just hope more of them, including Conservatives, will speak out.” 

Hope Worsdale, digital comms and campaign lead from Just Treatment said: “We know that the government's plans will fail patients across the country - so now we need even more people to get involved in ramping up the pressure on their MPs to reject the bill." 

You can track the progress of the Health and Care Bill here

Photographs by David Sandison, www.dsandison.com.