Liberal Democrat MPs have voted against an emergency debate to drop the controversial Health and Social Care Bill at its Spring Conference.
They will instead debate Baroness Shirley Williams’ motion to support the amendments already made to the bill tomorrow morning (Sunday 11 March).
Retired GP and Chair of Shrewsbury Liberal Democrats, Dr Charles West, who submitted the rebel motion, told MiP he was “very disappointed by the vote but was still hopeful”.
“We can still pull a rabbit out of the hat if we defeat Shirley Williams’ motion tomorrow,” he said.
“If we do, it is still all to play for and we may start to regain some credibility. If we don’t, it will be a tragedy for the party and for the NHS.”
Dr West said the Health Bill will have “massive ethical implications” for all GPs and fears the responsibility to prioritise the bottom line will risk the quality of patient care.
“If your practice is part of a CCG that is in financial difficulties, your CCG may tell you to stop referring to prevent busting the budget,” he said.
“If GPs choose to stand by their ethics, they will be penalised by losing 15% of its practice’s income, which means they will probably have to sack a practice nurse.”
Dr West said Lib Dem peers have persuaded themselves that they have done a better job than they have.
“I fear our parliamentarians have become locked in the Westminster bubble. While I don’t think our peers have been directly lent on by the Tories, I think they it is possible they have been influenced indirectly by people like Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander who are very close to the Tories.”
He added the party is “well and truly divided” over the Health Bill but was proved wrong when he said he believed the majority of the membership of Lib Dems were “firmly where I am”.