Lansley claims that he is not creating a market despite the private health industry expecting exactly that with healthcare bought privately or through health insurance, staff cuts affecting the standard of service, Lib-Dems demand that Monitor should not only promote competition – note that they are not demanding that it should not promote competition – Baroness Young on difficulties the bill will face in the Lords, UNISON calls for the bill to be dropped due to huge opposition and Dave Gilmour pays for Gary McKinnon’s treatment.
- Conservative election poster 2010
A few recent news articles concerning the UK’s Conservative and Liberal-Democrat coalition government – the ConDem’s – brutal attack on the National Health Service.
The British public’s brief flirtation with coalition government is over. A year after the Liberal Democrat-Conservative administration was formed, voters think it has made government weaker, less decisive, less responsive and more confused.
A study by a Whitehall think tank contains very bad news for Nick Clegg. It suggests he has failed in his mission to convince people that coalitions are a good thing. Even current Liberal Democrat supporters are not persuaded.
Mr Clegg’s fightback after last week’s double defeat at the ballot box suffered a setback last night when David Cameron said the Government’s rethink over its NHS reforms was his idea, not Mr Clegg’s. The Prime Minister told the 1922 Committee of Tory MPs that his party must not “allow the Liberal Democrats to pose as a moderating influence” on it. Mr Cameron said the partnership would put his party in a position where it could go for an outright majority at the next general election.
Almost three in five people (58 per cent) believe the Liberal Democrats have abandoned their principles by joining the Coalition. Some 61 per cent of people who voted for Mr Clegg’s party last year now support another one. The only crumb of comfort for Mr Clegg is that the public still think his party was right to join forces with the Tories – by a margin of 52 to 43 per cent.
Health secretary Andrew Lansley has insisted he has no objective to increase private sector involvement in the NHS, as he moved to counter claims that his NHS reforms will pave the way for the privatisation of the health service.
Speaking at the NAPC’s GP-led commissioning conference in London yesterday, a defiant Mr Lansley hit back at the growing army of critics to his health bill by insisting that competition was ‘a means to an end but not an end in itself’.
The beleaguered health secretary has faced a fresh storm of criticism this week from opposition MPs and the profession, with RCGP chair Clare Gerada claiming that implementing it as it stands will cause ‘irreparable damage’ to the core values of the NHS.
In a clear attempt to re-shift the emphasis of the debate away from privatisation, the health secretary argued that competition was a vehicle for improving patient choice, but insisted he had no ideological wish to see more private sector providers.
He said: ‘What is important is for patients to be able to exercise choice. But then they say, “if we have choice, we also have competition, which, if conducted in the wrong way, could fragment those pathways of care that we’re looking for”.’
‘From my point of view, that is never the intention. Competition, [and] the tariff, are means to an end not an end in itself.’
Responding to a question from Nottingham GP Dr Chris Udenze, who asked if Mr Lansley could think of any public health services that haven’t ended up in the hands of multi-national corporations following marketisation, the health secretary insisted he was not creating a market, and had no quota for how much private involvement there should be in the NHS.
Mr Lansley said: ‘I know what a market is, and we are not creating a market. We are creating a public service, where we are using the benefits of competition to deliver that public service.’
Response: Lansley claims that he is not creating a market. Strange then that private health vultures believe that is exactly what he’s doing and anticipate a huge market for privatised health provision and health insurance on the US model.
The NHS reforms will lead to “short-term pain” but huge long-term opportunities for independent healthcare providers, according to a survey of 20 leading chief executives in the sector.
Consultants The Parthenon Group interviewed 20 CEOs from the UK’s biggest healthcare companies including Nuffield Health, Barchester, Four Seasons, BMI and HCA.
Around 8/10 of respondents remain positive about NHS reform in the long term, with the government’s Any Qualified Provider (AQP) policy still likely to open up much of the NHS market.
Alistair Stranack, partner at The Parthenon Group’s healthcare practice, said he expects around 50% of the NHS’s £120bn funding will be up for grabs via AQP when the reforms are finally passed.
But continued bias against the private sector and worsening bureaucracy means the value of contracts actually awarded to the sector is unlikely to rise above 5-10% over the next five years, he said.
One CEO, responding to the survey, said “the bureaucratic burdeon of AQP is likely to slow down private sector participation and may prove more cumbersome than existing systems of choice like Choose and Book.”
There would be “some hiatus in the short term” but there was “no doubt we will see growth in the longer term as new areas are opened up to AQP,” another company leader commented.
Speaking at a Parthenon event in London, Nick Bosanquet, health economist at Imperial College, predicted that the current crisis in the NHS’s finances would lead to up to 25% of all healthcare in the UK being self-funded or insurance-based by 2018.
Patient care is suffering due to mounting workloads and staff cuts, according to a poll of nurses and midwives.
Two-thirds have thought of leaving the profession and 75% say the number of patients they are treating has increased in the last year.
Overall, 88% said their workload had gone up in the first year of the coalition Government, and 65% think the increase is undermining patient safety and care.
The poll of more than 2,000 nurses and midwives for Unison also found 61% had seen a reduction in staff numbers in their unit.
This could be through redundancy, staff not being replaced when they retire or leave, and less reliance on temporary staff.
More than 78% of those surveyed said their employer was making staff and budget cuts, with 36% reporting redundancies at their workplace.
Parents, patients and surgeons yesterday gave NHS bosses an unequivocal message not to end children’s heart surgery in Leeds.
There was a determined mood, which at times turned combative, as hundreds of people demonstrated their opposition to plans which could see children’s heart surgery axed in Yorkshire.
Families brought toddlers along to the Royal Armouries in Leeds for a protest and two consultation meetings which attracted about 300 people.
Campaigners fear changes to services could spell the end of heart surgery at Leeds Children’s Hospital.
NHS chiefs pledged the decision over the future of children’s heart surgery is “not a done deal”.
During a stormy public meeting parents angrily accused experts of talking “waffle” as they quizzed them about why the Leeds unit only features in one of out of four possible future set-ups, while Newcastle is in three.
A total of 500 people attended two consultation meetings yesterday at the Royal Armouries where NHS heads involved in the review of children’s heart surgery were questioned.
Liberal Democrats fighting the government’s NHS reforms are demanding ministers back down over plans to make the health regulator promote competition.
The controversial health and social care bill places a statutory obligation on Monitor to encourage competition, to the frustration of senior Lib Dems.
politics.co.uk understands Nick Clegg has been presented with the party’s latest demands, as the “pause” over the legislation continues.
At the top of the list is a requirement that Monitor should promote coordination and collaboration among health agencies, as well as competition.
Nurses working for NHS Direct have lodged a collective grievance after being told they will have to work more weekends in a bid to improve the organisation’s performance.
About 80, mostly band 6, nurses who work for the triage service on a part time basis are affected by the rota changes, Nursing Times understands.
They will require part time staff to work five weekends out of eight, the same number as full time staff. Currently the number of weekends worked by part time staff is worked out on a pro rata basis.
The Bill is part of primary legislation, but the government is expected to define much of the detail of consortia roles in supplementary regulations and guidelines. Regulations form part of secondary legislation and are subject to less parliamentary scrutiny. Guidelines are advisory and do not have legal force.
Many peers were unhappy that much of the detail on consortia would not be in the Health Bill as primary legislation, Baroness Young said.
‘Parliament gets quite antsy if the secondary stuff is not available, at least in draft form, before they have to pass the primary stuff, because you are buying a pig in a poke,’ she said. ‘We have to get work started on clarifying exactly what the role of the NHS Commissioning Board will be in holding consortia accountable.’
Health Minister Andrew Lansley must do more than listen – he must hear and act on the barrage of criticism and opposition to the Health and Social Care Bill. This is the message from UNISON, the UK’s largest union, representing more than 450,000 health workers, in its response to the NHS ‘Listening Exercise’.
Christina McAnea, UNISON’s Head of Health, said:
“Andrew Lansley seems incapable of actually hearing the outcry from patients, public, staff, health experts, charities, health economists and even from within the coalition government.
“The public do not want a health service where people can buy their way to the top of the NHS queue, or where healthcare is rationed to make profits for private companies and their shareholders. We know that three quarters of bankruptcies in America are because of the high cost of health bills – no one wants the NHS to be dragged in that direction.
“The Government’s plans are riddled with conflicts of interest and undermine the accountability of the NHS to patients and the public. Patients will soon be priced out of care and see services, wards and hospitals lost without any arrangement to continue treatment.
“We believe the bill is too fatally flawed to be amended and should be dropped completely. “
Mr McKinnon has had regular therapy at a London hospital to deal with his depression and suicidal feelings linked to his fight against extradition to the US.
In February, Haringey Primary Care Trust stopped paying the £240 a month cost of Mr McKinnon’s sessions at a hospital in south London.
David Gilmour, Pink Floyd’s lead guitarist, stepped in and agreed to pick up the bills through royalties from record sales.
Janis Sharp, Mr McKinnon’s mother, who was in London yesterday for a march by disability groups against welfare benefit cuts, said: “David Gilmour has been amazing. He stepped in at a time of crisis when we did not know where to turn.”
No one from Haringey Teaching Primary Care Trust was available to comment last night.
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