NHS reforms to become law

By politics.co.uk staff

Campaigners against NHS reform appeared to have lost their campaign last night, after the health and social care bill passed its final legislative hurdles.

Conservative and Liberal Democrat ministers banged tables in Cabinet to celebrate before the bill was finally approved in the Commons, opening the door for it to receive royal assent and become law by Easter.

A last-ditch attempt by Labour to delay the bill until the publication of the NHS risk register outlining the potential dangers of the reform was defeated by 328 votes to 246.

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham swore to abolish the bill if Labour returns to power, although given the structural changes to NHS organisations taking place on the ground already it is difficult to see how a reversal could take place.

"The only hope that I can give to people worried about the future of the NHS today is that this might be the end of the bill but it is just the beginning of our campaign," Mr Burnham said last night.

The passing of the bill marks the end of a tortured parliament process for the reforms, which have had innumerable amendments added during a listening pause and then again before it was considered in the Lords.

Opponents mourned what they called the 'death of the NHS' last night, with supporters of Unison holding a one minute silence outside parliament.

Liberal Democrats claim they have neutered the bills most dangerous aspects, which would have opened the NHS out to private firms and encouraged competition, but campaigners say there are still enough dangerous changes in the bill to create a two-tier health service.