The parliamentary passage of the Health and Social Care Bill has been an embarrassment to democracy.
Experts in health policy and the law have published evidence in leading peer-reviewed medical journals explaining how the Bill, despite amendments, will lead to the abolition of the NHS in England. It will facilitate the transition from a single-payer tax-funded system to a mixed-funding system, with increasing privatisation of healthcare. These drastic changes undermine the founding principles of the NHS and have no democratic mandate from the electorate and were not part of the coalition agreement.
As healthcare professionals, we are appalled that the coalition has imposed many of the changes before the Bill has even been enacted, and then tried to use this as evidence that the professions support its reform. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Government has systematically failed to make the case for such radical change to the NHS, which has recently been shown to be one of the most cost-effective and highly performing healthcare systems in the world, enjoying its highest ever public satisfaction rates.
None of the major healthcare representative organisations and professional associations supports the reforms, and most would like to see the Bill withdrawn. From the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health to the British Geriatrics Society, health professionals agree that the reforms will damage and fragment the NHS, widen inequalities and worsen patient care.
Despite such concern and opposition to this complex, flawed and potentially dangerous legislation, the coalition has repeatedly blocked the publication of the NHS risk register and is pushing ahead with the Bill, which is likely to be granted Royal Assent on Tuesday.
We believe MPs and peers have placed the political survival of the coalition above professional opinion, patient safety and the will of the country. The Liberal Democrat leadership ignored the democratic view of its spring conference, continuing to support a Bill that betrays the proud heritage of Beveridge's vision of the welfare state. It has colluded with its Conservative coalition partners and utilised all the political dark arts of obfuscation, deceit and media manipulation to confuse and conceal the Bill's underlying objectives in order to force it through. Liberal Democrat peers have even voted against their own amendments.
Shocked by the failure of the democratic process and the role played by the Liberal Democrats in the passage of this Bill, we have formed a coalition of healthcare professionals to take on coalition MPs at the next general election, on the non-party, independent ticket of defending the NHS and acting in the wider public interest.
Dr Clive Peedell and Dr Jacky Davis
Co-chairs, NHS Consultants' Association
Professor John R Ashton
Liverpool John Moores University
Professor Wendy Savage
Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Middlesex University
and 236 others; read this letter in full and with all signatories' names here
As Janet Street-Porter implies, public opinion is more progressive than the religious institutions in its preparedness to see equality enshrined in a new law allowing gay marriage ("Marriage is dying, but let gay couples have it, all the same", 11 March).
Any vociferous opposition to gay marriage is an unwise move by both Roman Catholic and Anglican churches, since it casts the spotlight on religious intransigence and, if this debate goes on to become more heated, raises questions about other religious practices. The institutionalisation of celibate priests, for example, and the veneration of saintly relics are practices which arguably skate on thin theological ice. In other words, "Don't cast the first stone."
Elizabeth J Oakley
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
The slashing of public funding for university teaching and trebling of student fees will effectively privatise higher education ("45,000 students caught cheating in exams", 11 March). With a degree, rather than learning, as the product, too many students will seek to learn at a surface level, seeking short cuts to the required marks and the "product" they have paid for. Expediting its delivery will not necessarily be seen as cheating.
That this "product" is delivered via assessments set and marked by the same organisation that takes the payment from customers who expect to be "always right" can only make matters worse.
Manchester Metropolitan University
Chris Maume is wrong to suggest that the proposal to close 6 Music was the BBC Trust's ("In 6 Music we trust ...", 11 March). A proposal for the station's closure was put to the Trust, and the Trust rejected it, largely owing to the fact that the station is genuinely distinctive and offers listeners something that they can't get elsewhere.
Director, BBC Trust
Corrections and clarifications
In editing the letter last week from descendants of the stoker William Mintram, we stated that he had survived the Titanic disaster. In fact, he gave up his life jacket to his son-in-law, and perished. We apologise to his family for this error.
Have your say
Letters to the Editor, Independent on Sunday, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5HF; email: firstname.lastname@example.org (with address; no attachments, please); fax: 020-7005 2627; online: independent.co.uk/dayinapage/2012/March/18