John Healey: NHS needs evolution, not Tory revolution

Share
Related Topics

David Cameron's first year as Prime Minister has been a year of chaos, confusion and waste for the NHS. He promised at the election to "protect the NHS" and "stop the top-down reorganisations that have got in the way of patient care".

Since then, we've had weak leadership, poor communication, bad policy and rushed legislation as part of the biggest top-down reorganisation in NHS history. Even Professor Steve Field, whose advice as chair of the Prime Minister's Future Forum will be published tomorrow, has said the Government's NHS changes are "unworkable" and could "destroy key services".

All efforts now should be dedicated to reforms that the NHS needs to rise to the three biggest challenges – improving the quality, safety and consistency of care for patients; integrating services better, especially for elderly people and those living with long-term health problems; and increasing efficiency, as public finances are squeezed. But as doctors, nurses, patients groups, NHS experts and even the Tory-led Health Select Committee have all cautioned, the NHS reorganisation makes meeting these challenges harder, not easier.

The Government's declared aims – a stronger role for clinicians in commissioning care, greater involvement of patients, less bureaucracy and more stress on improving results for patients – could all be achieved by the evolution of gains that Labour made, without legislation.

But the legislation is needed to pursue the revolution of turning the NHS into a full-scale market, modelled on the privatised utilities and driven by the force of competition law. This Tory revolution removes proper public accountability, and breaks up the NHS so patients will see greater inequality in services.

In the long term, this means many of the most important decisions about who provides what services may be taken by lawyers in the competition regulator and in the competition courts of London or Luxembourg and it means a postcode lottery in health care for patients.

Running throughout Cameron's plans is the basic Conservative free-market creed, "private sector good, public sector bad". This is why I have argued since last year that these are the wrong reforms, for the wrong motives, at the wrong time.

Public concern about the NHS is the highest for three years, and rising rapidly. Patients are starting to see waiting times rise and treatments cutback. Professionals in the NHS have no confidence in the Government's decisions or direction.

The test for Professor Field's report tomorrow is how far and faithfully it reflects the criticisms of the NHS plans. The test for the Prime Minister is whether he'll honour the promise he made to protect the NHS by making fundamental changes to his NHS plans and scaling back his NHS reorganisation.

David Cameron is a PR man. I fear he'll look for a PR answer, and we'll see a political fix. He may claim he's making "substantial and significant" changes to the health bill, while he leaves his long-term ideological plans for the NHS intact. And he may claim he's making no-other-option NHS reforms, while his very changes make it much harder to tackle the challenges that must be met.

While the past year has been a wasted year for the NHS, I fear there's worse to come.

John Healey is the opposition health spokesman and Labour MP for Wentworth and Dearne

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial / Residential Property - Surrey

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Programme - Online Location Services Business

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: What do you want to do with your career? Do yo...

Recruitment Genius: Senior QC Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a leading expert in immunoassa...

Recruitment Genius: Development Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Development Scientist is required to join a ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012  

I saw the immigration lies a mile off - and now nobody can deny it

Nigel Farage
The Uber app allows passengers to hail a taxi with a smartphone  

Who wouldn’t like a sharing economy? Well, me, for one

Mary Dejevsky
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit