John Healey: NHS needs evolution, not Tory revolution

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

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Piper Ryan Randall leads a pro-Scottish independence rally in the suburbs of Edinburgh  

i Editor's Letter: Britain survives, but change is afoot

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Some believe that David Cameron is to blame for allowing Alex Salmond a referendum  

Scottish referendum: So how about the English now being given a chance to split from England?

Mark Steel
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam