5 Apr 2011

NHS: keep the pressure on Coalition

The papers are full of news about Andrew Lansley's NHS plans and it is great to see that the government is having second thoughts - there plans are quite ridiculous. 'Dangerous' and 'risky' was how leading doctors described the government's health bill, and the BMA has voted for the plan to be stopped. However do email your MP from the link below as we need to make sure these plans are properly shelved - see also my letter to press a couple of months ago here.

Lib Dem members have called on their leadership to change the health bill, led by Baroness Shirley Williams, who called the plans 'lousy'. Even John Pugh MP, Lib Dem lead on health, has spoken out against the plans. In polls two thirds of the public oppose the plan for GPs to take over the health budget - even right-wingers like Tebbit have criticised the plans - although he has suggested going further and privatising all health trusts. Click read more to see more and take action.
Lord Tebbit said Health Secretary Andrew Lansley’s plans could bring “unfair” competition, enabling private firms to cherry pick. He is quotes saying: “It’s fine for the private sector, which doesn’t have responsibility for teaching and bringing on young surgeons, to take the straightforward and easy stuff. But that means the public sector is then left without the base of work to subsidise the more difficult surgery and the teaching of surgeons.”

Lord Tebbit, whose wife Margaret was left in a wheelchair after the IRA Brighton bomb attack in 1984, spoke of his experience as chairman of a charitable fund which helped the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre NHS Trust. He told how a local private hospital was contracted by the NHS to help shorten waiting lists. “But the damage it did to the finances of Nuffield and its ability to carry out training... was quite considerable. The private sector hospital had neither any obligation, nor wish, to take on the more difficult and complex surgery. It had no obligation to teach the next generation of surgeons the skills they would need to deal with such work. That was all left to be done by the NHS hospital. But the NHS hospital lost income from that bread-and-butter work. It no longer had enough of the routine work for young surgeons to gain the experience needed to take on difficult and complex work and it ran into real financial difficulties.”

The US-style health system the government wants is not the answer. We must fight these moves to privatisation. Virtually every health organisation is against the moves. Cameron should be listening to those who do the jobs. As the Guardian reports: "There is still no political agreement at the top of the government on whether the delay is merely a symbolic concession to re-explain the reforms...or to rewrite them." And as today's Daily Mail puts it, many within No.10 are: "hoping the reforms will go ahead but more slowly and with the Government getting some credit for having taken note of criticism..."

Can we get a real rethink of Lansley's disastrous plans? If enough of us tell our MPs that we don't want these changes to the NHS, we might be able to tip the decision the right way. 38 Degrees have set up an email to MPs - please sign it at:

Here's Caroline Lucas talking on the Westminister Hour on Sunday re the NHS: “I think what the NHS needs more than anything just now is a period of stability. It’s had so many changes over the year – and of course, Labour have got a pretty short memory here, because it was Labour that brought in the market principle, into the NHS. The government promised no top-down re-organisation, yet now what we’re facing is the greatest upheaval in the organisation’s history. There are very real worries from the British Medical Association, among others, that what this is going to do is to bring in privatisation, more and more competition. The overall impression left by this government is one of complete incompetence. You get the sense that Cameron has to keep rushing in to sort out ill-thought-out policies that his ministers are proposing. We’ve already had the spectacular u-turn on the forests sell-off with Caroline Spelman; we’ve had Michael Gove with the school sports partnership; having to do another u-turn, we were just hearing the other day about the EMA, the Education Maintenance Allowance, and many more of them.”

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