Monday 19 March 2012

Email to my adopted Peer, Lord Ezra on Lord Owen's Amendment

Here's the email I've sent to Lord Ezra, my adopted Peer asking him to back Lord Owen's amendment on the NHS Risk Register. Can you help too?:  

"Dear Lord Ezra,

This evening before the final vote on the Health and Social Care Bill, I am writing to ask for your help. I'm very concerned about the proposed changes to the NHS and I'd like you to support Lord Owen's amendment, which is asking that the House of Lords be prepared to propose a delay of a few weeks in order that Peers have a fully informed debate. The delay would allow time for the NHS Transitional Register to be published, which I'm sure you're aware the Coalition have been directed to do by the Courts under the Freedom of Information Act. Without access to the Register, I do not believe you have all the information you need to fully scrutinise the Bill which will change the NHS beyond all recognition.
The Coalition claims that its reforms of the NHS will put patients at the heart of healthcare. Contrary to its stated aims however, the government is driven by the desire not to improve healthcare but to open the door to new healthcare providers, invariably from the private sector. This will mark the beginnings of the privatisation of the NHS and though the process will not happen overnight, it will happen and standards will worsen gradually. This will mean that though a core of free NHS services will remain, they will be of declining quality because for-profit providers will cherry pick the most profitable services. NHS hospitals will be left with the more costly work, so staffing levels and standards of care will be forced down and waiting times will get longer. To be sure of getting good healthcare, people will increasingly take out private insurance, but only if they can afford it. At first most people will take out the cheaper insurance plans now on offer, that cover just what is no longer free from the NHS, but gradually insurance for most forms of care will become normal. The poor will be left with a limited package of free services of lower quality. That would include people such as a friend of mine currently being treated for breast cancer. She has recently had a mastectomy and is undergoing a course of chemotherapy, which will be followed by radiotherapy and a five year drug therapy programme. Both she and I are extremely grateful she has had such excellent care and access to resources. She's a single mother, with a tiny income, in receipt of benefits. She has no money to fall back on and in the future there is no possibility she would be able to take out insurance plans to fund her healthcare. Then there is my mother - a pensioner on a state pension with a tiny NHS pension. She has been struggling for over 10 years with distressing bouts of dizziness which leave her feeling very ill and incapacitated. Despite repeated testing by doctors, the cause has been very difficult to diagnose, but she too has continued to receive very good care and treatment. In the future how could others in my mother's position pay for costly tests, such as her recent brain scan? People with such small incomes have no spare cash for insurance, therefore they would have less efficient healthcare.
If Lord Owen's amendment were successful, appropriate time could be given to publish the NHS Transitional Register and thus Peers might scrutinise the Bill with access to full knowledge. This would mean that in future, people such as my friend and my mother would be less likely to face the inequality of TAXCODE healthcare, which seems to be the much more likely outcome if the Health and Social Care Bill (as it currently stands) is allowed to become law. So on moral grounds I respectfully ask you to vote tomorrow to support Lord Owen's amendment. Please help ensure that time is given so that the Lords continue the fight to keep the NHS a free and fair service for all, regardless of income or severity of illness.

Yours sincerely,

Bern O'Donoghue

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