NHS news review

Cameron and Lansley have been claiming that NHS cancer figures are bad while actually they are extrememly good.

38 Degrees explain their legal advice about the Health Secretary’s responsibilities: It’s about distancing the Health Secretary from responsibilty for the NHS.

http://www.ukuncut.org.uk/targets

The banks have run the global economy into the ground. Bankers, encouraged by the government, gambled recklessly with our money, and they lost. Spectacularly. Remember 2008? In the UK, the government decided it had to step in with a bail-out because these banks were ‘too big to fail’. According to the Bank of England, the cost of this bail-out now exceeds £1trillion. The result is that all high street banks- from Barclays to RBS- owe their existence to public financing.

What did we get for our billions? A banking system that serves ordinary people rather than the super-rich? No. Regretful bankers who refuse to reward themselves with massive bonuses? No. How about increased financial regulation to ensure this crisis couldn’t happen again? No. The government has done nothing to stop it being business as usual for banks.

What’s worse, the money that was given to the bankers is the money now being taken from the poorest in society, guaranteeing a rise in poverty, debt and inequality. Nearly £7 billion will be paid out in bank bonuses this year. This sum is more than the first wave of public spending cuts. We are not all in this together because it’s us who will pay if education, health, housing, libraries, woodland and much, much more, disappears from our lives.

Who’s telling us we must make these cuts? A government led by a cabinet of millionaires, in bed with the bankers, which is now pulling off an audacious con-trick in front of our eyes.

This is how their story goes. The crisis was caused by a bloated public sector. We binged away all our money on luxuries like healthcare and free education and council services, care for the elderly, for people with disabilities, school sports and free school meals for children living in poverty. Now the country is bankrupt and we must repent, detox, cut back. We have to relinquish our welfare state to appease the circling money men. Welcome to the Age of Austerity but don’t worry because we are all in this together.

We say – don’t believe their lies. This is their crisis, but there is no austerity for the bankers.

 

Conservative election poster 2010

A few recent news articles about the UK’s Conservative and Liberal-Democrat (Conservative) coalition government – the ConDem’s – brutal attack on the National Health Service.

NHS cancer figures contradict David Cameron and Andrew Lansley’s claims | Society | The Guardian

The prime minister and health secretary have criticised the NHS on cancer, but new figures suggest the service is a world leader

David Cameron and Andrew Lansley’s repeated criticisms of the NHS’s record on cancer have been contradicted by new research that shows the health service to be an international leader in tackling the disease.

The findings challenge the government’s claims that NHS failings on cancer contribute to 5,000-10,000 unnecessary cancer deaths a year, which ministers have used as a key reason for pushing through their radical shakeup of the service.

In fact, the NHS in England and Wales has helped achieve the biggest drop in cancer deaths and displayed the most efficient use of resources among 10 leading countries worldwide, according to the study published in the British Journal of Cancer.

“These results challenge the feeble justification of the government’s changes, which appear to be based upon overhyped media representation, rather than hard comparable evidence. This paper should be a real boost to cancer patients and their families because the NHS’s performance on cancer is much better than the media presents. It challenges the government’s assertion that the NHS is inefficient and ineffective at treating cancer – an argument for reforming the NHS,” said Prof Colin Pritchard, a health academic at Bournemouth University.

38 Degrees | Blog | NHS bill: “hands-off clause” advice

A few months ago, we asked one of the legal experts we funded for his view on the “autonomy clause”, or Clause 4 in the bill.

The full advice is here, but below are the main points on the “hands-off clause”.

Our legal advice:

30. However, what is proposed to be a new section 1C of the NHS Act 2006, does seem to me to be of importance. This would read

―1C Duty as to promoting autonomy
In exercising functions in relation to the health service, the Secretary of State must, so far as is consistent with the interests of the health service, act with a view to securing—

(a) that any other person exercising functions in relation to the health service or providing services for its purposes is free to exercise those functions or provide those services in the manner that it considers most appropriate, and

(b) that unnecessary burdens are not imposed on any such person.”

31. Therefore, so long as the Secretary of State does not think that it is inconsistent with the interests of the NHS, s/he must positively act to allow any other person exercising health service functions to do so in the way that that person thinks appropriate. This is what I described in conference as a “hands off” clause. Although the Secretary of State keeps some form of oversight, it is the other persons and bodies delivering the health service whose views are important as to how those services are to be delivered. This is further explained in the Explanatory Notes as follows

74. This clause seeks to establish an overarching principle that the Secretary of State should act with a view to promoting autonomy in the health service. It identifies two constituent elements of autonomy: freedom forbodies/persons in the health service (such as commissioning consortia or Monitor) to exercise their functions in a manner they consider most appropriate (1C(a)), and not imposing unnecessary burdens from those bodies/persons (1C(b)). The clause requires the Secretary of State to act with a view to securing these aspects of autonomy in exercising his functions in relation to the health service, so far as is consistent with the interests of the health service.

75. This duty would therefore require the Secretary of State, when considering whether to place requirements on the NHS, to make a judgement as to whether these were in the interests of the health service. If challenged, the Secretary of State would have to be able to justify why these requirements were necessary.

32. This kind of wording is often used in statutes to mean that a public body only has the power to act when steps to be taken are “really needed” or “essential”, rather than because the public body thinks something is desirable or appropriate. A court looking at this kind of wording would expect the public body (the Secretary of State in this case) to demonstrate why no other course of action could be followed, which is a high test to meet.

33. I think the reference to potential challenges at the end of this note is significant and reflects the limit of the Secretary of State’s powers. If the Secretary of State attempts to use his or her powers to impose requirements on commissioning consortia, for example, then there could well be a judicial review challenge from a consortium which opposed the requirements on the basis that they infringed the principle of autonomy in the new section 1C and could not be justified as necessary or essential. This approach replaces the, more or less, unfettered power that the Secretary of State has to make directions currently to be found in s8 NHS Act 2006 (as explained above), with a duty not to interfere unless essential to do so. It is also noteworthy that the same “autonomy” or “hands off” duty is also placed on the NHS Commissioning Board, by what would be a new s13E of the NHS Act 2006 (and it is, of course, the Board who will have closer contact with commissioning consortia than will the Secretary of State).

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