Abbott: Cameron should be straight about his intentions on the NHS

Under the coalition's plans, the independent regulator Monitor, could have the twin role of promoting competition as well as integration of care.

David Cameron

Diane Abbott MP (Labour, Hackney North and Stoke Newington) is the shadow public health minister

The head of the Church of England is right to say that the coalition government is forcing through “radical policies for which no one voted”.

Nowhere is this more true perhaps than on their plans for the future of the NHS. As if to prove the point, we have just had a ‘listening exercise’ on the issue in which the government has heard little and learnt nothing

Dr Rowan Williams is also right to say:

“(The) government badly needs to hear just how much plain fear there is around questions such as these at present.”

He is right because David Cameron and Andrew Lansley’s ‘pause’ seems to have been a ‘listening exercise’ without any understanding. Indeed, if David Cameron really wants to make ‘substantial changes’ to his NHS plans, he should have the guts to admit his plans were a mistake in the first place.

The government should listen to the BMA who say that ‘the changes to competition may actually end up amounting to little more than “window-dressing”; they should listen to the 3700 of our GPs who are being forced into retirement by the strain being imposed by the government’s plans; and they should listen to patients who are beginning to suffer now that waiting times are continuing to rise past a three year high.

It is becoming clearer and clearer that neither David Cameron nor Nick Clegg, who voted for this NHS massacre at second reading, has grasped the scale of the problem.

The threat posed to our NHS by this government is a real one. Cameron’s chaotic proposals affect real people and real families.

Mr Cameron would do well to listen to the concerns of those people, up and down the country, who saw the harrowing pictures of abuse of vulnerable people at the Winterbourne View unit.  Meanwhile, another private care home contractor, Southern Cross, has taken emergency measures to avoid financial collapse.

On GP commissioning consortia, one of the concerns that Cameron will have heard during his pause is the public’s fear about the possible role of the private sector in GP commissioning. Although we all agree that the private sector has always had, and will always have, a role in the NHS, the Southern Cross Healthcare disaster shows the dangers of leaving health and social care to the short-term decisions of private equity bosses.

Indeed, under the coalition’s NHS plans, the independent regulator of NHS foundation trusts, Monitor, could now have the twin role of promoting competition as well as the integration of care.

The changes being announced by David Cameron and his media advisers are little more than breadcrumbs thrown to those people who have taken a stand against this reorganisation: ordinary members of the public, patient groups, professional bodies, health experts, coalition partners and aspiring rappers.

Leading the opposition to these plans is Labour and our message is loud and clear: start being straight about the far-reaching ideological changes in your health bill and drop your plan for a free market NHS.

At the heart of all the chaos, confusion and incompetence is one simple truth: you cannot trust the Tories on the NHS.

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by becoming a Left Foot Forward Supporter today.