Progressive rabbis join protests against health bill

Twenty Reform and Liberal rabbis have called on Health Secretary Andrew Lansley to abandon his plans to reorganise the NHS, warning that the changes could affect care to society's most vulnerable groups.

"In Judaism, health care and the saving of life have a very high priority," they wrote in a letter to the minister. "Centuries ago, this duty was extended to the poor irrespective of their ability to pay. Moreover, Judaism demands that a civilised society must care particularly for the frail, vulnerable and elderly."

While these priorities had underpinned the NHS since its creation, they went on, "there is now widespread fear that they are being eroded. The introduction of further competition, making it easier for private health care providers to be engaged, means that there is a real risk that profit will come before health care."

It was "also foreseeable that priority will be given to more profitable areas of health care, with consequential neglect of vulnerable groups such as the elderly and the mentally ill.

"Furthermore, at a time when the NHS budget in real terms is shrinking, this is no time for costly reorganisation, especially when its value has been questioned by the majority of health care professionals."

The signatories include Rabbi Jackie Tabick, convenor of the Reform Beth Din, Rabbi Alexandra Wright of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue, St John's Wood , and Rabbi Margaret Jacobi, of Birmingham's Progressive Synagogue, who is a so a trained doctor.

They urged Mr Lansley to drop his plans in order "to ensure that the most vulnerable continue to receive equal treatment".

Last updated: 1:31pm, March 8 2012