Labour: These NHS reforms will not stand

Labour will repeal the NHS reforms coming into force today, it has confirmed.

The opposition, which has fought the coalition's reforms to introduce market dynamics, is pledging to repeal the Health and Social Care Act if it wins an overall majority in 2015.

Two-and-a-half years since then-health secretary Andrew Lansley raised eyebrows by unveiling proposals for a major reorganisation of the health service, the NHS reforms bitterly fought over are finally being implemented.

"David Cameron has placed the National Health Service on a fast-track to fragmentation and privatisation," shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said.

Under the coalition over £3.45 billion has been spent on pushing through the changes, which create clinical commissioning groups tasked with putting NHS contracts to be tendered on the open market.

Labour would not reinstate the strategic health authorities and primary care trusts being scrapped today. Instead it will "restore the legal framework of a universal, collaborative health service".

"With today's changes, David Cameron has put profits before patients in the NHS," Burnham added.

"Doctors will not be in control, but required to offer up the NHS to the lowest bidder. That's why Labour will repeal the government’s free market and put the right values back at the heart of the NHS."

The NHS has become the main battleground for the public/private sector ideological struggle in this parliament, with many advocates of reform suggesting the coalition has not gone far enough.

A report by the Civitas think-tank out today pointed to a poll by ICM suggesting voters do not care where their public services have come from, provided they are free at the point of need.

"The reforms taking effect from today are a distraction that will not empower consumers or encourage diverse ownership to the extent required," director David Green said.

"The best way to raise standards and look after patient interests is to promote competition so that rival providers are compelled to raise their game.

"We all know as consumers that, unless we have alternatives, producer interests come to dominate."

Also coming into force today are new health and wellbeing boards, which aim to deliver a more integrated approach to care and the establishment of Monitor as an economic regulator for the sector.

The reforms will also require all remaining NHS trusts to become foundation trusts by April 2014 – a shift which the King's Fund says could lead to further upheaval.

"It is clear that a number of NHS trusts are not financially sustainable and will struggle to achieve foundation trust status — this is likely to prompt mergers and service reconfigurations," it noted.

"The use of the trust special administration regime recently in South London suggests that more hospitals may go down this route in future."