• Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth claims Matt Hancock has “no chance” of getting NHS legislation proposals through as they stand
  • Mr Ashworth also raised concerns over US tech firms’ access to NHS patient data under post-Brexit US trade deal
  • If elected, Labour government would repeal Lansley Act, shadow health secretary says

The government “has got no chance of getting” NHS legislation – as proposed by NHS England – through Parliament, the shadow health secretary has said.

NHS England consulted on a range of significant changes early this year, and the Commons health and social care committee held an inquiry on them. Officials have been holding further talks, and NHSE is expected to detail final proposals shortly. Proposals include removing “section 75” procurement rules and competition regulation.

The current government is planning to announce a new legislative programme next month, but does not have a majority in the Commons, and a general election is expected soon. Whether legislation can pass could therefore rely on how Labour MPs vote and whether they choose to try to amend a bill.

Jon Ashworth, shadow health secretary, spoke to HSJ at the Labour party conference in Brighton. He said: “I don’t think we’ve actually seen the [proposed] legislation. We want to see the Lansley Act repealed, we want to restore a public universal NHS.

“I’m not convinced [health secretary] Matt Hancock will go as far as what is needed to provide the care that patients deserve. The Conservatives have lost their majority and, as things stand, I think Mr Hancock has got no chance of getting any legislation through at the moment.”

The government has indicated it intends to put forward legislative changes suggested by NHSE to improve integration. This includes removing various competition laws.

Asked whether a Labour government would back the current legislation proposals, Mr Ashworth said: “We would have our own legislation… a Labour government that comes in would bring forward legislation to end the wasteful bureaucratic competitive tendering because we want to see services come back in-house generally.

“We want to end fragmentation, to see care delivered on the basis of planning, not on the basis of markets and competition.”

Mr Hancock has previously indicated he supports legislation, but warned: ”Crucially… if we bring this bill forward and people add things to it that don’t work, or cost too much money, or are going to cause us problems, then we may have to drop the bill altogether. And it will be the people bringing forward additional baubles whose fault that would be, not mine.”

Meanwhile during a conference fringe session, the shadow health secretary also raised concerns over the possible access US-based tech firms might have to NHS data under a potential post-Brexit trade deal with the US.

He said: “If you look at the NHS, we’ve got this huge data, which the US want to get their hands on. They’d want to suck it out, save it on their servers, manipulate that data, create algorithms, which they then in turn sell back for therapies and apps, which they’ve developed from our data, which they then try to sell back to us. And we would become dependent on these US tech firms.

“This is an area which I think we in the health world need to get together and do some collective thinking about what protections we can create for patient data.”

He also said a trade deal could endanger NHSE’s legislative proposals, because they may require procurement and competition rules to be applied to the NHS. He said it could mean firms being able to take the government to tribunals to ensure they abide by the deal.