Labour demands government apology for controversial NHS restructuring

Opposition party calls landmark law a 'shameful, failed experiment' and says health secretary Jeremy Hunt should say sorry

Benjamin Kentish
Political Correspondent
Sunday 27 May 2018 00:02
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Jeremy Corbyn attacks Theresa May over NHS staff shortages, cuts and privatisation

Labour has called on the government to apologise for the major reorganisation of the NHS that the Conservatives carried out as part of the coalition government.

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, demanded Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, say sorry for the “ludicrous and dangerous” reforms, which he said amounted to a “shameful, failed experiment”.

Labour also set out five key tests it said must be met in order to bring the NHS “back from the brink”.

It follows reports the government is considering reversing some of the controversial changes made in the 2012 Health and Social Care Act, which were overseen by then-Conservative health secretary Andrew Lansley.

The act handed more commissioning powers to GPs and abolished the primary care trusts that had previously managed services. The bill was widely opposed by many doctors, who warned that it could lead to increased privatisation in the NHS.

Ministers, however, insisted it would give more power to doctors and make services more efficient.

Mr Ashworth said: “The reforms forced on our health service by the Tory-Lib Dem coalition government were the biggest disaster in the proud 70-year history of the NHS.

“The Tories were warned that their foolhardy reforms would lead to the fragmentation and privatisation of our public health service, and undermine the integration and co-ordination necessary to manage the NHS. But they have turned out even worse than anyone could have imagined.

“The Health and Social Care Act was a shameful, failed experiment inflicted on our public health service by the Tories, and our NHS and its patients have suffered as a result of its dangerous and ludicrous reforms.”

He added: “Record underfunding, combined with the Tories’ disastrous reforms, have pushed our NHS to the brink, only held together by the hard work and dedication of its heroic workers.

“Labour will scrap the disastrous Health and Social Care Act, end Tory outsourcing and privatisation, and give the NHS the funding that it needs.”

Labour said the government must take five steps to support the health system, including an increase in funding, ending privatisation and recruiting more staff.

More should be done to harness technological advancements and reduce inequalities within the NHS, it added.

Reports suggest the government is preparing to boost NHS spending by three per cent, but experts have warned this does not go far enough.

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On Thursday, Tory MP Sarah Wollaston, who chairs the Commons health committee, said anything less than a 4 per cent increase in spending would be “disastrous”.

She told the BBC: "The difficulty would be if they make a funding announcement that is way below expectations, I think that would be disastrous.

"The figure we are hearing touted today, of 3 per cent, that simply wouldn't be high enough.

"If we look at the long-term average since the start of the NHS, that's been around 3.7 per cent.

"And what we are hearing very clearly from today's report is that we need a long term average of 4 per cent, and if possible more in the short term, to make up for the eight long years where we've had the longest squeeze in the NHS's history."

Mr Ashworth also called on Mr Hunt to directly intervene to stop 30 hospitals’ plans to outsource contracts for staff such as cleaners.

He said: “This is outsourcing on an industrial scale and will lead to staff ending up on lower terms and conditions, precarious contracts and with inevitable detrimental effects on services like cleaning. Jeremy Hunt must step in and stop this now.”

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