Lib Dem Voice survey shows members narrowly oppose Coalition’s NHS reforms

by Stephen Tall on September 22, 2011

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Some 550 party members responded, and we’re currently publishing the full results.

Lib Dem members vote 43% to 37% against Coalition’s NHS reforms

LDV asked: The Health and Social Care Bill which will implement radical reforms to the NHS was passed on 6 September. The Bill was changed significantly to reflect Lib Dem policy proposals passed at the Spring conference. Critics say the changes do not go far enough to address concerns that the Bill will lead to creeping privatisation of the NHS. The Bill’s supporters say that the reforms will introduce more patient choice and improve healthcare. From what you have read or heard about these plans, do you support or oppose the Bill overall?

  • 37% – Support
  • 43% – Oppose
  • 20% – Don’t know

The party’s Birmingham conference may not have been given the chance to vote on the NHS bill, but our survey did give members the opportunity to give their views. And a clear albeit narrow plurality — 43% to 37% — feel the changes to the NHS reforms negotiated by the Lib Dems do not do enough to address the perceived problems with the Bill. Interestingly, though, this is a significant shift since last we asked about the NHS reforms, in April, when the margin of opposition was 61% to 24%. The concessions in response to Lib Dem pressure have won over some of the sceptics, though not enough yet.

Here are a sample of your comments:

For the Bill:

Ultimately I don’t have a problem with private providers, provided the NHS remains true to the “Free at the point of use” principle
The PCTs are grossly inefficient and ineffective, staffed by bureaucrats on salaries well in excess of private sector rates
Nick Clegg needs to resist the anti-market militant tendency Evan Harris is stirring up and start talking about European healthcare systems that are far more mixed than the UK whilst retaining the universal principle absent in the US. The government reforms are far more European than American
Support so long as investment continues especially in long term underfunded areas such as psychiatric hospitals and care. An increase in freedom of choice is not a bad idea due to disparities in qualitity of treatment.
It clearly doesn’t increase patient choice, but the innovation caused by the increase in internal competition should be a force for good in the NHS. I’m tired of people screaming “privatisation” without explaining why they think that will make things worse.

Against the Bill:

It’s not the end of the nhs, but I think the bill will be an expensive and pointless reorganisation with little chance of major improvements.
We have changed a lot, but there are further changes to make before I will be able to tolerate it.
Our NHS is currently one of the most efficient systems in the world. These reforms will just lead to private companies cherry-picking the most profitable services.
I strongly dislike the idea that foreign businesses should have a stake in the NHS, and think that any form of privatisation would mean profits for them at our expense. The NHS could be improved, but not like this.
As an NHS worker I am strongly opposed to the Bill – particularly the problems with the Secretary of State’s responsibilities, EU competition law, private companies running GP consortia and the potential for a postcode lottery in commissioning services.
The party leadership has failed to address clearly enough the criticisms of people who are very closely familiar with the detail, such as Evan Harris, Andrew George, John Pugh and Shirley Williams. The message from the centre seems to be “we have won a stunning victory, lets not get too worried about the detail”. Pretty patronising and with a party such as ours, almost certainly counter productive!

Don’t knows:

It’s very difficult to judge bills that are directed at improving cost-effectiveness and quality, rather than matters of principle or well-defined problems.
Too hard to tell at this stage but I would encourage pilot schemes. My local doctors are keen.
I’ve worked in the NHS for more than 2 decades. Changes seem to go full circle every so often depending who is in government. Keeping changing cost money. The NHS needs stability with chnages based on evidence that those changes will improve it not just someone’s whim at the time.

  • Over 1,200 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with Some 550 responded to the latest survey, which was conducted between 11th and 15th September.
  • Please note: we make no claims that the survey is fully representative of the Lib Dem membership as a whole. However,’s surveys are the largest independent samples of the views of Lib Dem members across the country, and have in the past accurately predicted the winners of the contest for Party President, and the result of the conference decision to approve the Coalition agreement.
  • The full archive of our members’ surveys can be viewed at