Andrew Lansley addressed the Conservative party conference this afternoon against the backdrop of yet more anger at his regressive NHS reforms, reports Shamik Das.
Andrew Lansley addressed the Conservative party conference this afternoon against the backdrop of yet more anger at his regressive NHS reforms. He made a series of boasts over waiting times, brushed aside concern at the reforms, claimed the Tories were investing in the health service, ranted about bureaucracy and then, incredibly, said “you simply can’t trust Labour on the NHS”.
If anyone is to be distrusted on the NHS, however – as Ed Miliband said in his speech last Tuesday – it is the Tory health secretary, his boss David Cameron and chancellor George Osborne, a view widely shared by those who work in the health service and care about patients rather than profit, as evidenced by this morning’s letter to the Daily Telegraph, in which 400 public health experts called on the Lords to reject the Tory reforms.
The experts warn that the health and social care bill, even in its amended form, will cause the NHS “irreperable harm”, writing:
“The bill will do irreparable harm to the NHS, to individual patients and to society as a whole.
“It ushers in a significantly heightened degree of commercialisation and marketisation that will fragment patient care; aggravate risks to individual patient safety; erode medical ethics and trust within the health system; widen health inequalities; waste much money on attempts to regulate and manage competition; and undermine the ability of the health system to respond effectively and efficiently to communicable disease outbreaks and other public health emergencies…
“The government claims that the reforms have the backing of the health professions. They do not. Neither do they have the general support of the public.”
“It is our professional judgement that the Health and Social Care Bill will erode the NHS’s ethical and co-operative foundations and that it will not deliver efficiency, quality, fairness or choice.
“We therefore request that you reject passage of the Health and Social Care Bill.”
While shadow health secretary John Healey, responding to Lansley’s speech, warned:
“The Tories are out of touch with what patients and the public want from the NHS. At a time when our health service should be focused on delivering high-quality care, the NHS is being diverted by a reckless top-down reorganisation.
“Patients and NHS staff can already see long waits returning and their services being cut back, as £2 billion gets blown on an upheaval that no one wants and no one voted for. Andrew Lansley and David Cameron are both in denial about the scale of opposition to the plans, and together they have failed to show that they are listening to the ever expanding chorus of concern about the Tories’ wasteful reorganisation of the NHS.
“When 400 senior doctors tell the Tories to drop their Bill and David Cameron still claims they support him, it sounds like he’s the one who needs an English test… Day by day it is becoming increasingly clear that you can’t trust the Tories with the NHS.”
As Healey and the experts have said, the bill, as it stands, is not supported by evidence and will simply fragment our system – indeed, the evidence from other countries suggests the proposals are more likely to create increased inefficiency and greater cost, increasing our vulnerability to infectious disease outbreaks and creating a bigger health divide.
Just as with the economy, the government urgently needs a Plan B on health.
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• The two faces of NHS reform – Tamasin Cave, September 7th 2011
• Cameron’s fantasy list of NHS reform backers – Shamik Das, September 7th 2011
• Safe in Cameron’s hands? Waiting times for treatments, tests, and A&E all up – Shamik Das, September 4th 2011
• Exposed: Lansley’s NHS reform cheerleaders – Tamasin Cave, March 16th 2011
• So, Mr Cameron, who backs your NHS reforms? Erm… – Shamik Das, February 2nd 2011
• Opposition grows to NHS “patchwork-privatisation” plans – Trevor Cheeseman, January 7th 2011
• Experts, doctors and commentators turn on health reforms – Will Straw, January 18th 2011