Labour muddled on the NHS

It strikes me that Manchester’s Labour politicians are muddled on the NHS reforms.

John at the Christie. He's welcomed the end to the Labour system that put profit before patients.

Manchester Labour’s been saying in the press recently that the changes to the NHS reforms do not “go nearly far enough” and that they want a “return to patients before profit”. They’re very confused – they’re leaping to the defence of the NHS when we’re finally getting changes that will put patients before profit!
Where was the Manchester Labour petition when the Labour Government diverted money meant for patient care to profit? In the last two years under Labour, £19m was forked out to private hospitals in Greater Manchester for operations on NHS patients that never took place. Labour should hold their heads in shame. Every penny of that should have gone to caring for patients.
And now, at the very moment that the Lib Dems have succeeded in banning cutthroat price competition between NHS and private hospitals, Labour’s suddenly woken up and trotted out a petition to fight for what the Lib Dems have already won.
Labour has forgotten, too, that they fought the last election on a manifesto promise for “sustained reform” to “safeguard the NHS in tougher fiscal times”. They promised “an active role” for private hospitals – with no mention of stopping the unfair advantage they gave to the private sector.
I’m going to go through the Bill with a fine toothcomb when it comes back to the Commons to see if any further improvements are needed. But the changes that have been announced are very welcome in my view.

6 responses to “Labour muddled on the NHS

  1. Keep up the hard work John. We can’t let Labour get away with leaving the country in a mess.

    Their double standards on issues such as our NHS is an utter disgrace.

  2. The Future Forum raised concerns about promoting competition as an end in itself, and recommended that Monitor be stripped of its competition duties and no longer be an economic regulator; the Government has ignored this, and Monitor remains an economic regulator with wide pro-competition powers. I think Mr Leech exaggerates what has changed.

    Labour introduced private providers in order to drive down waiting lists. This legislation and the chaos which accompanies it will drive up waiting lists and drive desperate patients to pay for services which are supposed to be supplied for free by the NHS.

  3. I’m not sure what mr leech thinks is wrong with saying the reforms do not go far enough? What evidence is there to suggest that the principles in the bill do indeed put patients before profit? Many individuals and organisations are quite rightly concerned about the reform plans and about the bill. Many very good arguments have been made in opposition and frankly the best response has been similar to what is being put forth here – “you just don’t understand how good it is” How patronising. Address the concerns with proper argument if the bill is so good equally so if the reform to the bill is so good.

    The only problem I have with labour opposition is that it lacks credibility given they have been fully paid up subscribers to the “competition, choice and private sector involvement” ideas shared with this government. There are only two questions worth asking: “does the bill benefit the NHS and the public?” and “will the reforms benefit the bill in this context?” I’m afraid both answers are no from me and I am not alone.

    Why is it that labour politicians can’t be of the same view? They are not so much muddled as you seem to suggest – that they have failed to understand how great everything the coalition does is, but their opposition is undermined because the direction this government is going is the same nulabour were and still are.

    I am loathe to throw party politcal insults as an independent but the phrase “glass houses” springs to mind when a lib dem MP criticises another for breaking election manifesto promises or pledges…

    All MPs could do with remembering their first duty is to act as representatives of the public interest not to win elections or shape the world to fit party ideology.

  4. Oh and btw I agree with labour’s principle of sustained reform to the NHS even if I disagree with the political consensus that this should be done using the mechanisms of private sector involvement, competition and choice.

    The NHS as an institution is naturally reforming itself constantly to deal with it’s responsibilities and actually this is very different to how you have interpreted their pledge here – as a support for the NHS changes planned by the coalition which are actually a massive shock doctrine top down re-organisation of the whole structure, administration and funding of the NHS.

  5. The Lib Dems are apparently still only to happy to embrace another top-down reorganisation that creates yet another super-quango and diverts the attention of hard-pressed NHS staff from providing top quality care within the increased financial constraints of public spending reductions.

    Indeed, it is the Lib-Dem politicians cynically hanging on to power who should be criticised for their Orwellian newspeak on the fig-leaf that this Bill has become.


  6. Thanks for all the comments. It’s great that so many people, like me, want to make sure that the NHS does an even better job in future and that the Government gets this right.

    Martin – Monitor now has no role in pursuing competition for its own sake, as Andrew Lansley wanted. It will, after the changes, now be asked to promote the integration of services, to make sure that people with complex needs, like the elderly, get the care they need. That’s to be welcomed. That’s why The Independent predicted that with the changes we’ve won, we’ll “end up with an NHS less market-driven and with less competition under the coalition than under the previous Labour administration”. The Guardian commented: “Nick Clegg drew a red line around the crucial clause that tasks the regulator with ‘promoting competition’”.

    Kat – you asked what evidence is there to suggest that the principles in the bill do indeed put patients before profit. The Lib Dems have long fought the unfair ‘independent sector treatment centres’ introduced by Labour in 2004, which guaranteed private hospitals fixed sums for the most needed, standard operations – leaving the most complex cases to the NHS hospitals. This also meant that private hospitals got paid regardless of whether or not patients chose to use them or not. All this is being scrapped with us in Government.

    We are also banning price competition for all procedures covered by NHS tariffs, like hip replacements and cataract operations, allowed in loopholes left by Labour, and will stop price competition for all those non-tariffed, more complex health work that we’ve had under Labour -like for mental health services – by introducing new, standard tariffs. Under all these tariffs, any private hospitals will not be used if patients snub them, and if they do use them, they will not get a penny more than NHS hospitals for doing the same work, unlike under Labour, which for no good reason paid them extra for doing the same operations. All that’s being swept away with the changes.

    Simon – there are no spending reductions. There is £11.5bn extra money for the NHS over four years. There is, however, an initiative to ask the NHS to spend less on offices and red-tape, and more on patient care. Who introduced this initiative? The Labour Government in 2009, which in its 2010 manifesto said that the NHS would face “tougher fiscal times” if they won, and then the Labour shadow secretary Andy Burnham said in June 2010 that “it is irresponsible to increase NHS spending in real terms”. Labour now pretends we will forget everything they’ve ever done and said, and thinks we can be fooled into believing that the NHS can keep on doing an even better job with no changes whatsoever, despite an ageing population and the costs of new drugs and technologies.

    We need an NHS that listens more and wastes less: that means no more money thrown away on private hospitals for doing absolutely nothing.

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