The Health and Care Bill went through its remaining stages in the House of Commons this week. Amendments were made to the Bill regarding some of the following areas: the workforce in the health service or related sectors, cosmetic procedures, virginity testing or hymenoplasty, and clauses relating to the Health Services Safety Investigations Body. Branding of e-cigarettes was also debated on Monday 22 November. A new clause, number 36, the “Offence of virginity testing: England and Wales”, moved by Minister for Health Edward Argar. This was passed without division and creates an offence under the law of England and Wales of virginity testing.
A new clause was moved by John Baron MP that would this new clause would require the Secretary of State to set objectives for the NHS on cancer treatment which are defined by outcomes (such as one-year or five-year survival rates), and would give those objectives priority over any other objectives relating to cancer treatment (such as waiting times). Mr Baron argued that the new clause was key in closing the cancer survival rate gap, and the new clause was passed without division.
Social care reforms were passed by MPs by a majority of just 26 votes on Monday night. 272 were in favour and 246 against, meaning dozens of Conservative MPs abstained from the vote. The vote covered financial changes which exclude means-tested council support payments from a new £86,000 lifetime limit on costs. This move was heavily criticised by the Labour party and other opposition parties, who said that poorer people would lose out as a result of the changes to social care. The Tory rebels included former senior ministers Esther McVey and Mark Harper, while former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt was among those who abstained, according to BBC News.
The Health and Care Bill will now advance to the House of Lords for scrutiny and debate. The Bill is coming under increasing criticism regarding private companies sitting on the new ICS boards and the ending of the automatic requirement to put health contracts out to tender. Trade union ‘Unite’ has called the legislation an “NHS privatisation Bill” that allows privatisation “by the back door”.