Miliband attacks NHS reform chaos

Labour leader Ed Miliband today branded the Government's controversial health reforms "extremely dangerous" as he called on the Prime Minister to think again about his "reckless" proposals.

Amid mounting speculation of an imminent announcement that the plans are to be watered down, Mr Miliband warned that the NHS - the "jewel in Britain's crown" - was at risk.

He said in a speech in London that changes had to be made in the running of the NHS - but not the way the Government was planning.

In a hard-hitting attack on the coalition, he described Health Secretary Andrew Lansley's plans as "chaotic" and warned they would make hospital closures more likely.









Mr Miliband called on the Prime Minister to abandon the Bill going through Parliament, pledging that Labour would view any different proposals with an "open mind".

But he warned the current plans were sending the NHS in the wrong direction and made the closure of hospitals more likely.



"The jewel in the British crown is being put at risk. It will send the NHS in the wrong direction in terms of patient care."



The Labour leader said he was concerned that waiting times were already increasing and that GPs would have even less time to deal with patients because of the extra work they would have.



Mr Miliband said Labour's record on the NHS while in Government was "excellent", but he added that changes should continue to be made, such as considering reducing the number of targets.











The attack comes as Mr Cameron and Nick Clegg prepare to launch a "listening exercise" later this week in a bid to reassure critics of the shake-up, which will see GPs handed control of commissioning services.

GPs are expected to form into consortia to take over control of 80% of the NHS budget by 2013, however it is believed this deadline may be formally extended.



It has already been stated that private companies will be prevented from "cherry picking" profitable NHS services.



The Bill's wording is likely to be changed from "any willing provider" of NHS services to "any qualified provider", meaning all providers would have to meet a set of standards. Nevertheless, changing this wording would not alter any of the Bill's provisions for allowing more private companies into the health service.



Mr Miliband said change was "essential", continuing: "The new pressures on the NHS are too great, the new challenges too large for us to think that preserving the status quo will be enough.



"The choice for the NHS is not as the Prime Minister suggests, between change or no change. It's a choice about what that change should be.



"In the 1990s, the government was embarrassed about the state of the NHS, but the citizen had no set of standards to call upon.



"People were abandoned for hours on hospital trolleys, while others sat for an entire night in A&E, and some were asked to wait for weeks for a GP appointment.



"This was partly about investment but not only about it. The NHS today is more accountable to patients at every level



"There is considerable confusion, not least within the Government itself, about why Mr Cameron has embarked on this costly reorganisation of the NHS at a time when funding is so tight.



"What is clear is that the overall intention is to shift significantly the NHS towards what can only be described as a free-market model of healthcare provision, albeit one without an extension of charging."



Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Williams warned that there were would be "very serious" consequences for the coalition unless there were significant changes to the Bill.



"I have a very great desire to see the coalition succeed, I think it's necessary to deal with the really serious crisis facing the country," she told BBC Radio 4's The World At One.



"But I believe unless there are major changes in the health proposals it will be in very great trouble."



Lib Dem opponents of the reforms today published a series of demands which they said were necessary to make the plans comply with party policy.



Evan Harris, one of the leaders of the health revolt at the Lib Dem spring conference and a vice chair of the party's national policy committee, said: "This list of amendments is the minimum needed to satisfy the requirements of Lib Dem policy as set out on the Coalition Agreement and the recent motion, and this will be an essential guide to Lib Dem MPs, the leadership of the party and indeed the Conservatives of what needs to change.



"The Liberal Democrats do not expect their MPs to vote down the Bill, but will not accept our parliamentarians being whipped to vote against any of the necessary amendments needed to provide democratic accountability of GP-led commissioning, guarantee the comprehensive nature of the NHS and rein in the original plans for an NHS market.



"Lib Dem activists and members are encouraged that Nick Clegg and senior figures seem keen to assure us that the NHS reforms will be significantly amended as required by the party, but the Conservatives need to understand that the problem will only be solved if the required changes are fully delivered."



Mr Miliband said that when Labour came to power in 1997, it inherited an NHS in "dire straits", adding: "It was an institution that was profoundly valued, but it was also seen as being in steady and, according to some, irreversible decline. Yet investment and reform transformed the service.



"The NHS is now benefiting from the highest satisfaction ratings it has ever achieved, 72%, against the lowest ever in the 1990s."



The Labour leader said the shift towards free-market healthcare would not help the NHS prepare for the challenges it will face in the future.



"An ageing population and rising chronic disease both demand an NHS which can prevent and intervene earlier. Given these challenges the big task for the NHS is to get family doctors and hospitals working more closely together, but the Government's plans risk setting GP against hospitals in the battle for profits and patients.



"Labour did use the private sector to deliver services for NHS patients, but these proposals take us into a whole different arena, with the prospect of private sector companies being used to carry out commissioning on behalf of GPs."



Michael Fallon, deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, said: "The NHS is too important to be used by Ed Miliband as a political football.



"Ed Miliband claims he supports the NHS but still won't say whether Labour would match our increased investment or cut the NHS in England like they are doing in Wales .



"We want to modernise the NHS so that it is protected for future generations but his plan to scrap the Bill would mean keeping bloated bureaucracies at the expense of patient care.



"Labour's approach of spending less and doing nothing would leave the NHS in crisis."







Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £38,000

£22000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role is a mixture of office...

Recruitment Genius: Web Hosting Support Agent

£17100 - £20900 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the North West's leading...

Recruitment Genius: Experienced Health & Safety Support Tutor

£19000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Legal Assistant

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests