MPs have approved the Health and Social Care Bill following a two-day debate in Parliament.
The Bill, which won a majority of 65 on its third reading, now passes to the House of Lords – where it is expected to face further challenges.
Despite the plans exposing divisions within the coalition – with four Liberal Democrat MPs voting against the reforms – David Cameron defended the proposals, saying: “I believe that they will lead to a stronger NHS and better outcomes for patients.”
But Shadow Health Secretary John Healey said Cameron was ‘undermining’ the NHS with an “incompetent and bureaucratic reorganisation which puts profit before patients.”
The reforms have triggered warnings that the Bill would “destabilise the NHS as we know it,” as written in a letter signed by a collection of members of the Royal Colleges of GPs, Physicians and Midwives.
The letter fueled debates during Prime Ministers Questions, when David Cameron claimed the support of the health care professionals. Mr Healey said: “When experts like the Royal College of GPs and the Royal College of Nursing criticise David Cameron’s Health Bill, he doesn’t just ignore them – he pretends they support him.”
Facing opposition from Labour as well as health care professionals and patients groups, the Bill’s passage through Parliament has been delayed.
Earlier in the year, it was sent back to the Commons for a series of revisions, which included giving medical professionals other than GPs power over NHS funding and ditching the 2013 deadline for introducing new clinical commissioning groups (CCG).
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: “Our plans have undergone rigorous scrutiny, led by the NHS Future Forum. They have stood up to the test. No secret plan was unearthed to privatise the NHS, only suggestions put forward to strengthen it.”
However, a significant amendment to the plans regarding the introduction of independent advice concerning abortion was avoided, when MPs overwhelmingly rejected Nadine Dorries’ proposal with 250 votes.
The Conservative backbencher claimed that organisations currently providing counselling profit from encouraging women to terminate pregnancies, something the organisations have denied.
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