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U.K. Health-Care Bill Would Increase Inequality, Pollack Says

Jan. 26 (Bloomberg) -- A proposal to overhaul the U.K.’s state-run medical system would undermine comprehensive free care by transferring power from a centralized authority to regional groups, a public health researcher wrote in The Lancet.

The new legislation would create an unspecified number of Clinical Commissioning Groups, which would take on the responsibilities currently under Conservative Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, said Allyson Pollock, a professor of public health research and policy at Queen Mary, University of London. Unlike the secretary, the groups aren’t bound by any duty to promote comprehensive free health service, Pollock said.

Such decentralization “will increase inequality in service access, provision and uptake,” she wrote in the article published today. “The duty to provide a national health service throughout England would be lost if the Bill became law.”

Lansley’s Health and Social Care Bill, which applies only to England, would be the biggest shakeup in the history of the 64-year-old National Health Service. The legislation includes proposals aimed at expanding the number of private companies that offer health-care services to NHS patients. The plan has been attacked by doctors’ groups, the opposition Labour Party and lawmakers from Prime Minister David Cameron’s own Conservative Party and their Liberal Democrat coalition partners.

The bill is going through the House of Lords, and any amendments made there would have to be approved by the House of Commons before the legislation is submitted for royal assent.

To contact the reporter on this story: Makiko Kitamura in London at mkitamura1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Phil Serafino at pserafino@bloomberg.net

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