- 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.
Andrew Lansley’s health reforms face a fresh crisis as a powerful committee of MPs says the changes are obstructing efforts to make the NHS more efficient and that they fail to address the most urgent health challenge of modern times – how to care better for an expanding elderly population.
A highly critical report by the cross-party select committee on health, due to be published on Tuesday or Wednesday, comes as the medical establishment prepares to stage its own summit on Thursday to discuss concerns over the health and social care bill. The report, a late draft of which has been seen by the Observer, will cause alarm in Downing Street as it is the work of a committee with a Tory and Liberal Democrat majority and is chaired by Stephen Dorrell, a former Conservative health secretary.
One of its key messages is that Lansley’s far-reaching attempts to restructure the NHS in England and devolve more power to GPs are making it more difficult to deliver on a separate target of £20bn of efficiency savings by 2014-15. The report echoes the widespread view in the medical profession that it is deeply unwise to be inflicting far reaching structural reform on the NHS at the same time as asking it to make huge savings.
The MPs say that instead of finding savings by innovation and greater efficiency, many hospitals and trusts are simply cutting services, despite Lansley’s assurances that this would not happen. It says: “The reorganisation process continues to complicate the push for efficiency gains. Although it may have facilitated savings in some cases we heard that it more often creates disruption and distraction that hinders the ability of organisations to consider truly effective ways of reforming service delivery and releasing savings.”
Nick Clegg has defended the coalition government’s NHS reforms in England, saying the health service could not be “frozen in time”, following a barrage of criticism from a cross-party group of MPs.
The deputy prime minister insisted ministers had gone a long way to allay concerns over the future of the NHS. A report from the Commons health select committee this week, a late draft of which was seen by the Observer, is expected to warn that far-reaching attempts to restructure the NHS will make it more difficult to deliver £20bn of efficiency savings by 2014-15.
Clegg told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday: “We have said there is going to be no privatisation of the NHS by the back door … and that there is a proper way to account for the NHS, but we don’t want people to think that we can freeze [the NHS] in time and it will all be OK.
“I haven’t seen [the report], but of course we will look at it. There is a totally legitimate question [asked by the committee] about how you conduct reform when at the same time you are making savings.”
Clegg said that making people on the front line more responsible for the use of NHS money would help, not hinder. He said: “I think that no one should believe we are helping the NHS by sticking our heads in the sand and saying ‘no change’.”…
Shadow Secretary of State for Health Andy Burnham says that the Government’s controversial health reforms threaten to push the NHS “over a cliff edge”.
Mr Burnham accused the coalition of reneging on its promise not to impose ‘top down reorganisation’ and claimed that the proposed changes to the NHS may be dangerous.
“I think if these changes go ahead it will be the end of the National Health Service as we know it. It will be a plan to put market forces at the very heart of our health services. In essence it is a privatisation plan for the NHS,” said Mr Burnham.
Andrew Lansley’s health reforms are contained in the health and social care bill, which will return to the House of Lords next month. This Thursday the British Medical Association, health workers unions and other interested parties who want the bill scrapped will hold a summit in London.