Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson backs the plan
Newly elected Labour mayors and council leaders have pledged to use health and wellbeing boards to prevent the emergence of a ‘post code lottery in public health services’ and limit ‘the involvement of the private sector in the NHS’.
Andy Burnham, Labour's shadow health secretary, told EHN that ‘a growing list’ of councilors elected in local elections in England last week had signed up to a pledge to ‘uphold the founding values of the NHS’.
Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson and Salford mayor Ian Stewart have backed the strategy.
Mr Burnham said Labour councilors would work with health professionals at a local level to ‘resist the drive towards privatisation and a postcode lottery’.
‘In every community, Labour representatives will be meeting with their health and wellbeing boards, health commissioners and providers and asking them to adopt these principles: an NHS free for all resisting the encroachment of charging, preventing a postcode lottery, maintaining Labour's waiting standards, promoting collaboration over competition, putting patients before profits,’ he said.
Labour gained control of 22 councils in England. The Conservatives lost 10 councils and 328 councilors in England but Boris Johnson won a second term as mayor of London. The Liberal Democrats lost one council and 190 councilors in England.
Voters in Birmingham, Sheffield, Newcastle, Wakefield, Manchester, Nottingham, Bradford, Leeds and Coventry rejected proposals for a mayoral system. But Bristol voted in favour and Doncaster decided to retain its mayor.
The Health and Social Care Act, which received royal assent in March, replaces primary care trusts with clinical commissioning groups and transfers public health responsibilities from the NHS to local authorities.
The Act opens the NHS to ‘any qualified provider’ taking over health services, increases the amount of private work NHS hospitals can carry out from between 2-3 per cent to 49 per cent and creates a new regulator for health providers, Monitor, which has a duty to ‘prevent anti-competitive practices’.
The Faculty of Public Health has warned that the Act could lead to geographical variation because it allows local authorities to cease commissioning some health services such as smoking cessation.
David Kidney, CIEH head of policy, said: ‘It is in the interest of health and wellbeing boards for local NHS organisations to be fully engaged in the public health agenda. Additionally, local Healthwatch – the public’s eyes and ears for local healthcare services – is a member of every board and councils still have a health scrutiny role. So it is legitimate for health and wellbeing boards, as well as councils and Councillors, to be concerned about the effectiveness of their NHS. The key is to focus on effectiveness, not party politics.’
A Department of Health spokesperson said: 'The Health and Social Care Act 2012 will prevent favourable treatment of private health companies at the expense of NHS providers. It will be for clinical commissioners to decide where and how to use private providers in line with their commissioning plans and the requirements of the Act.'