Labour health minister Baroness Thornton warns that health secretary Andrew Lansley aims to privatise the NHS in the same way as the gas and electricity sectors.
The Public Accounts Committee reports on obstacles preventing NHS trusts achieving foundation status. Trusts need to achieve foundation status under Lansley’s plans. Issues identified include financial difficulties, strategic issuess, performance and quality problems.
Lansley responds by ordering independent assessments by private consultants of NHS trust boards.
Labour is promoting their ‘plan B’ in an attempt to stave off the worst excesses of the Con-Dem coalition government’s Destroy the NHS / Health and Social Care Bill. They are calling on health professionals to support them.
Students at University College London (UCL) have passed a vote of no confidence in their Provost, Malcolm Grant. Students object to his intention to continue running UCL while accepting Andrew Lansley’s invitation to chair the new NHS Commissioning Board.
- 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.
The House of Lords began its debate on Tuesday of Part 3 of the Health Bill – the most controversial section that deals with proposals to increase competition in the NHS.
Labour health minister Baroness Thornton began the debate with a warning that health secretary Andrew Lansley aims to privatise the NHS in the same way as the gas and electricity sectors.
Mr Lansley is against a publicly run public sector and instead believes competition solves every problem, she said.
Baroness Thornton added that the Health Bill had been ‘conceived and constructed’ around plans to create a regulated market in the NHS.
She said: ‘It has become abundantly clear that the reason we have this mammoth Bill, bringing about the expensive and risky reorganisation of our NHS, is to create a regulated market in the NHS.
‘This Bill is a mess. It is now a catalogue of compromises, except the framework that we have on offer in Part 3, which would, over time, allow Mr Lansley’s vision to be fulfilled. He must be hanging on to that for dear life.’
Financial and leadership problems are among the obstacles preventing NHS trusts from gaining foundation status, say MPs
Nearly half of hospitals that have still to attain foundation status are facing challenges more severe than previously thought, according to an MPs committee report.
The report, published by the Public Accounts Committee on Thursday, says four out of five of hospitals seeking status were facing financial difficulties; 78% were tackling strategic issues and two thirds were facing performance and quality problems. Nearly 40% still needed to strengthen their governance and leadership.
Margaret Hodge, chair of the committee, said the government’s aim of all trusts becoming foundations by 2014 was “clearly a very tall order.”
Making all trusts viable will involve reconfiguration of some services, possibly through mergers and the committee says it is critical that local communities are consulted about these decisions and do benefit from them.
The cost of PFI schemes is an additional challenge for a limited number of hospitals. Analysis commissioned by the Department for Health identified six trusts that were unviable, largely because of their private finance charges.
However, the committee is particularly alarmed about London’s healthcare system, which has been allowed to deteriorate, despite problems which have been known about for many years.
“London is in a particularly shocking state and nobody has got a grip on long-standing problems,” Hodge said. “We remain to be convinced that combining struggling hospitals into larger trusts – as with south London – will somehow produce viable organisations offering good quality, accessible healthcare.”
Andrew Lansley, the health secretary, has ordered “independent assessments” of the boards of NHS trusts after a powerful parliamentary committee found that half of them had issues of “capacity and capability of leadership”, preventing them meeting the government’s deadline to become foundation hospitals by 2014.
Lansley will announce the new inspection regime, to be run by external consultants, as part of framework of change in the NHS to drive up standards. He has been dismayed by the findings of the public accounts committee who bluntly state the scale of the challenge ahead.
The committee said it will be a “very tall order to get” NHS trusts to become foundation hospitals, which are free from Whitehall control. The committe warn that four out of five of the 113 remaining trusts “face financial difficulties. Most face strategic challenges, performance issues and governance problems”.
Of these, 20 hospitals have declared that they will never make foundation status in their present circumstances – and half of these are in London. The MPs warn that while the department has said there are no current plans to close hospitals, “it is difficult to see why other organisations would want to take them on”.
“The chief executive of the NHS is only “moderately confident” that London’s hospital system can be turned round, and acknowledged the unique challenges and obstacles to be overcome,” said Margaret Hodge, chair of the committee.
She added that: “These trusts will be forced into reconfigurations or even mergers. This may deal with the financial challenges involved but could leave some deprived communities with unequal access to high quality healthcare, when hospital departments are closed and services moved.”
The issues surrounding financing have also seen senior doctors resign in disgust at the cuts. Yesterday it emerged that Guy Broome, an orthopaedic surgeon who chaired the medical staff committee at debt-ridden North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust, told Pulse that he had resigned because patients were being denied care on financial rather than clinical grounds. He also claimed the hospital had attempted to gag him from publicly voicing his fears about patient safety.
Labour is urging key medical leaders to back a plan B to shake up the NHS without using Andrew Lansley’s controversial proposals, in a last-ditch attempt to scupper the health and social care bill.
The party is hoping to persuade leaders of Britain’s doctors, nurses and midwives to join a campaign that would derail the health secretary’s plan by persuading enough MPs and peers to back their alternative, which they call their “stability plan”.
Andy Burnham, Lansley’s Labour party shadow, met about 40 presidents and chief executives of key organisations such as the British Medical Association, NHS Confederation and royal colleges representing nurses, surgeons and midwives on Wednesday as a first step to try to win their support.
Burnham hopes to capitalise on the huge concerns about the bill, and is trying to form a united front to argue for proceeding with some elements of Lansley’s plans, but not the major changes that have led critics to predict “the end of the NHS as we know it” in England.
Students at University College London (UCL) have passed a vote of no confidence in their Provost, Malcolm Grant. This was triggered, most immediately, by students’ objection to his intention to continue running UCL while accepting Andrew Lansley’s invitation to chair the new NHS Commissioning Board. Though he doesn’t even use the NHS himself, Grant will be put in charge of a £100 billion health budget and the implementation of the coalition government’s NHS reforms, while also running a university of 24,000 students and 8000 staff. We don’t think either of these are part-time commitments.
Moreover, we reject any association of our university with Lansley’s plan to demolish the values that define our universal health service, and replace them with profit and competition. Our vote against Lansley’s appointee echoes nurses’ vote of no confidence in the Secretary himself and doctors’ condemnation of his plans.