Labour launches last-ditch attempt to kill Health Bill


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The Independent Online

The Government's flagship health reforms face their final hurdle this week as Labour urges the House of Lords to "kill the Bill" to save 6,000 nursing jobs.

An alliance of Labour, Liberal Democrat and independent crossbench peers will back a series of amendments to the troubled Health and Social Care Bill, which returns to the second chamber on Wednesday. Although ministers have already made concessions, Liberal Democrat peers are demanding more changes to dilute the role of market forces and a declaration that the NHS will be based on "quality not price".

Some senior Tories are worried the debate on health will damage David Cameron after his repeated assurances that the NHS is safe in his hands.

While Nick Clegg is urging Liberal Democrat peers to fine-tune rather than emasculate the Bill, they were asked to seek major changes yesterday by Tim Farron, the party's president. He said Liberal Democrat peers would seek "further concessions". He said: "I want to make sure if there is any competition at all it has got to be competition on quality and not on price."

Today Labour will tell peers they can kill off the measure by working together. Ed Miliband will claim 3,500 nursing jobs have already been cut since the Coalition took power and another 2,500 are threatened. He will argue that all 6,000 could be saved at a cost of £748m if the £1.7 billion NHS reform is halted.

Simon Burns, the Health Minister, said the reforms would save £4.5bn by the next election, which will be reinvested in health care.

The UK's largest medical royal college, The Royal College of General Practitioners, has called for the Prime Minister to scrap the Health Bill, branding it "damaging, unnecessary and expensive".