Commons debate looms as NHS reform petition hits 100,000 landmark

David Cameron is facing severe criticism from across the political spectrum for allowing Andrew Lansley's NHS reforms to go ahead.
David Cameron is facing severe criticism from across the political spectrum for allowing Andrew Lansley's NHS reforms to go ahead.

By Ian Dunt

The government could be forced into another Commons debate on its NHS reforms, after an online petition opposing the bill received the necessary 100,000 signatures.

Government e-petitions require 100,000 backers to be debated in parliament, although merely having secured the support is not a guarantee they will be debated.

"David Cameron wants to legislate to turn our NHS into a free market. He is being reminded in no uncertain terms that he does not have the public's permission to do this," shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said.


"Even though the petition has passed the 100,000 mark, I urge people to keep on signing. The greater the number of people who add their names, the more strength they will give us to speak out against it in the final parliamentary battle."

Even if the petition does trigger a debate, the ensuing vote would not have a concrete effect on the legislation.

It might have a broader political effect however. When an e-petition on Europe triggered a Commons debate, it ended with an 81-strong Tory backbench rebellion, highlighting the strength of feeling in the governing party.

The petition was just the latest setback to hit the controversial bill.

Overnight, an internal NHS report was released which raised concerns about reduced safety levels and deteriorating patient care if the reforms are pushed through.

An appraisal by four NHS regions in England raised concerns about NHS organisations working at cross-purposes during the transitional period and said the changes would fail to improve management systems or the NHS budget.

In one of the most serious findings, NHS London said there was a danger of "preventable harm to children" under the reforms but was unable to reduce it.

Despite most of the concerns being flagged up in a previous quarterly report and being addressed by implementation measures, many of the anticipated problems were rated in the high-risk category of "significant" while others were considered "high risk".

Health officials were keen to point out the findings related to potential risks rather than actual problems.

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