NHS news is dominated by a speech given by David Cameron yesteday. He claims that the NHS must change but that does not justify the privatisation and withdrawal of services that he proposes.
He mentions a crisis of funding. 38 Degrees and UK Uncut are clearly showing how to resolve that issue – by combating tax avoidance by rich tax avoiding Capitalists.
He engages in “It’s because I love the NHS so much that I want to change it.” emotionality which attracts many comments. I wonder if Craig Oliver was drunk when he came up with that one.
Cameron repeatedly claims that the NHS is safe in his hands BUT the Health and Social Care Bill does away with the government providing a comprehensive health service
it has received near total opposition from healthcare professionals. Cameron claims to be willing to listen to doctors and nurses BUT they are calling for the bill to be abandoned.
Many groups and individuals respond to Cameron’s speech.
- 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.
(Text of Cameron’s speech)
David Cameron’s speech today on NHS reform has one familiar element: the extent of his personal attachment to the health service.
“It is because I love the NHS so much that I want to change it,” he says. That is an argument familiar from the election campaign, when Mr Cameron emphasised that the NHS was safe in his hands precisely because he had personal experience of its excellence during the tragic illness of his late son, Ivan. Indeed, it underlay the Tories’ commitment not only to exempt health from spending cuts, but to increase its funding.
Few doubt the NHS needs reform and that spending at present levels is unsustainable given the demands of an ageing population and the expansion in expensive new treatments. But accepting the need for reform is not the same thing as welcoming the Government’s health bill. This is a complicated set of proposals in one piece of legislation, which gives GPs more control over spending and commissioning services and at the same time seeks to take out layers of bureaucracy and increase competition. Many people, including health professionals, who would happily give GPs a greater say in the service, baulk at the extension of commercial competition. And Mr Cameron’s decision to “pause” the reforms – but not, as he says today, to stop them – is a measure of the public disquiet about the Bill and its implications.
Commenting on David Cameron’s speech on the Health and Social Care Bill, at Ealing Hospital, in London, today (16 May), Christina McAnea, Head of Health at UNISON, which represents more than 450,000 health workers, said:
“David Cameron is taking the ‘national’ out of the health service and turning it into a fragmented, money-spinning operation.
“The Prime Minister is using extreme examples to paint an untrue picture. He admits the NHS is providing the best service it has ever done, with reports saying it is the most efficient and equitable health system.
“Cameron’s call to crack down on waste in the NHS is a smokescreen for a move to a wholesale market, which opens the NHS up to privatisation. The real waste is the time spent on the fatally flawed reforms, which will force NHS patients to the back of a very long queue.
“He talks about having more choice and protecting budgets, but health workers are seeing their jobs axed and wards, services and even entire hospitals lost without any arrangements to protect continuity of patient care.
David Cameron’s pledge to ensure ‘substantive’ changes to the NHS ‘reform’ bill should be probed to discover what he actually means, Unite, the largest union in the country, said today (Monday 16 May).
Unite said that the deeply flawed Health and Social Care bill should be scrapped and a rtoyal commission set-up to investigate the future of the NHS.
Unite pointed out the discrepancy between the prime minister’s ‘vision’ and the fact that tens of thousands of NHS jobs had been or were going to be lost in the near future. Wards are already closing, waiting lists growing and services being axed or reduced.
Unite national officer for health, Rachael Maskell, said: ”David Cameron in his speech today was long on rhetoric, but short of specifics. This was a PR exercise in verbal gymnastics due to the political pressures he is under, especially from his Liberal Democrat allies.
”David Cameron wants it both ways with the Health and Social Care bill. He said today there will be no privatisation, no ‘cherry picking’ of services by private companies and no up-front costs for care, but we question how the prime minister’s ‘substantive’ changes are going to be incorporated into the legislation.
”The bill is so flawed that it should be scrapped. The whole bill is designed on the premise of Monitor’s role as an economic regulator and the concept of ‘any willing provider’ i.e. private companies. If the prime minister is serious about these changes, it will mean a new bill.
Responding to David Cameron’s speech on NHS reform today, Mike Hobday, Head of Policy of Macmillan Cancer Support, said:
“We welcome the Prime Minister’s reassurance that the relevant healthcare professionals will be involved in key decision-making about the commissioning of NHS care and the commitment that patients will receive high-quality and coordinated care, rather than the NHS being subject to an unbridled free market. This is a key safeguard to ensure that care for cancer patients does not suffer under the proposed NHS reforms.
“Cancer is a set of highly complex diseases and GPs tell us that they will need specialist help to commission cancer services. This is why it is vital that cancer networks should continue to be used to inform decision making about the commissioning of cancer services, and why the Government must commit to fund them at least until GP consortia are up and running in 2014.
“We hope the ‘listening exercise’ results in a long-term commitment to clinical networks, and are encouraged by the David Cameron’s comments today that this will be the case.”
Commenting on the Prime Minister’s speech on NHS reform in England today (Monday 16 May, 2011), Dr Hamish Meldrum, Chairman of Council at the BMA, said:
“We agree with the Prime Minister that the NHS needs to change. There needs to be greater integration, greater efficiency, and more emphasis on prevention. However, the Health Bill as it is currently written would make these improvements far harder to achieve, leading to a more fragmented health service, with many hospitals at risk of closure. Whilst we welcome his commitment to listening to staff and to taking them with him, most doctors will not feel able to support this Bill unless it is radically amended.”
The Prime Minister also highlighted the fact that alcohol misuse and obesity place significant burdens on the NHS. Dr Meldrum added:
“Unfortunately the government has often ignored the advice of health organisations on how to tackle alcohol misuse and obesity, preferring to listen to and rely on the views of industries which have a vested interest in selling unhealthy products“.
John Healey MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, has hit out at David Cameron’s plans for NHS reform, saying they will leave the service fragmented and take it backwards.
Labour has also released a document on the lack of coherence in the Tory-led Government’s plans and showing the level of concern and opposition to them throughout the NHS.
John Healey said:
“This is the Prime Minister’s third launch of his NHS plans. He’s made his ‘I love the NHS’ speech before but today he said nothing to clear up the confusion and chaos around his ideological, top-down reorganisation. He made the case for change in the NHS, but not for his change.
“David Cameron’s plans will fragment the NHS, with a free market free for all undermining the quality, integration and public accountability of NHS services. As even the Tory-led Health Select Committee has said, the legislation as it stands will make better services and better value for money harder not easier to achieve. It will take the NHS backwards.
“David Cameron talks of his love for the NHS, but he has broken his promise to protect the NHS. If he really wants an NHS with no privatisation, no new charges for patient services and no competition for its own sake, he must make fundamental changes to his NHS plans because his Health Bill allows exactly this.”
The difference between David Cameron and Tony Blair is that Blair was better at disguising his intentions. He would never have announced, for example, the sale of public forests. Instead he might have promised “a world-class forest estate” in which “walker-led beacon-foundation woodlands” would be managed through “partnerships with a plurality of recreational providers”. Ten years later we would discover that our forests had mysteriously fallen into the hands of timber companies, and were being felled in the name of customer choice.
Nor would he have done anything as stupid as this government’s attempt to transform the NHS in one bill. Cameron sought to dig himself out of his hole on Monday, but too late. His claim that “there will be no privatisation … no cherry-picking from private providers” reminds us that privatisation and cherry-picking are the likely outcomes of his bill. Blair would have allowed private interests to keep spreading through the health service as slowly and quietly as dry rot. In their book The Plot Against the NHS, Colin Leys and Stewart Player show that Cameron’s health and social care bill consolidates a plan that has been fermenting for many years.