Right now, the government is trying to sneak through secondary legislation (under Section 75 of the Health & Social Care Act) to force virtually every part of the NHS to be opened up to compulsory competitive markets, open to the private sector. We have just over a month to stop them, and we need to start straight away.

NHS privatisation round the back door

These regulations (SI 257) are likely to be the final straw for many of our NHS hospitals and clinics, already damaged by too much costly marketisation and cuts. The new regulations  render the content of the CCG Constitution largely irrelevant to the NHS privatisation they are designed to accomplish.

This is what we said would happen – it is the device to break up our NHS and convert it into a market system.

According to the Health Service Journal

“Lawyers working in the NHS told HSJ the regulations could have wide-reaching implications on the mix of providers of NHS-funded services. The rules ban “any restrictions on competition that are not necessary”. They say contracts can only be awarded without tender for “technical reasons, or reasons connected with the protection of exclusive rights” or for “reasons of extreme urgency”.”

Detailed briefing by NICOLA CUTCHER and LUCY REYNOLDS

Parliament does not normally even debate or vote on this type of regulation – but it is possible. Even those Lib Dems who supported the Health & Social Care Act should be very concerned as the regulations break the reassurances offered to parliament and to the local Clinical Commissioning Groups, that the Act allowed local choice about when to use competition. For example Andrew Lansley promised doctors that “commissioners, not the Secretary of State and not regulators – should decide when and how competition should be used to serve… patients interests” (see briefing for other examples of the promises that were made). But these new regulations do not allow local freedom to decide when to use competition, at all.

Campaigners may also have heard of the successful Gloucestershire campaign which overturned privatisation of nine hospitals, instead keeping them in the NHS without tendering (in October 2012 – ie, even after the Act). The barrister in that case, David Lock QC, has told me that this option will no longer be possible for anyone else, if these regulations go through.

These regulations were laid down on 13th February and will become law on 1 April unless all MPs who care about the NHS first insist on a debate and vote, and then vote them down. Over the next few days the political parties are going to be considering their next moves.

Please take time now to
a) sign 38 Degrees petition to call for a full debate, vote and defeat

b) urgently email your local MP to ask them to ensure these regulations are debated, voted on and defeated in parliament. Send them the Keep Our NHS Public briefing & use the bullet points in the briefing to help you explain to your MP why you are so concerned. You can use if you don’t have your MP’s email address.

c) ask others to do the same! please spread this message widely to friends, colleagues, any groups you are in, and write to the newspapers using the points in the attached briefing, along with your own experience.

d) you could also email the clerk of the house of lords committee on statutory instruments which will be examining the regulations shortly, raising concerns about the implications of these regulations and asking them to recommend they get a full debate in the Lords. Their email address is seclegscrutiny[at] I will let you know when I know more about the way the Commons committees operate.

e) if you are in touch with your local clinical commissioning group (CCG) – and especially if they seem sympathetic – you could ask them if they share your concerns, if they will make a statement about the implication of these regulations, and if they will speak out against them

You can read more background here:

Finally, if you are not already a member of Keep Our NHS Public (without whom this would not have been possible) please consider joining today

Thanks all,
Twitter @carolinejmolloy