Leading article: NHS reform: ideology, rather than pragmatism

Wednesday 16 March 2011 01:00
Comments

It is a serious matter that the British Medical Association has called an emergency meeting – the first of its kind for nearly 20 years – to warn the Government to think again about the pace and scale of its reforms to the National Health Service. The aims of those reforms might be laudable. The Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, says he wants to set the NHS free from political interference and make it more responsive to patients. And he is right to say that with an ageing population making increasing demands on services, and the cost of drugs and new treatments rising, change is needed.

But he has set in train the biggest reorganisation in the 62-year history of the NHS – at a time when it is being asked to save £20bn from its £100bn budget. And he has done so despite a Tory pledge before the election that there would be no major overhaul of the health service. Doctors' leaders have rightly complained that the detail on the massive changes were not available at all until the Bill was published two months ago. Mr Lansley's reforms have been premised on ideological conviction rather than pragmatism; pilot projects should have been trialled first rather than in parallel with the passage of a Bill which is already well on its way through Parliament. No wonder Liberal Democrat delegates rejected the plans at the party's spring conference last weekend.

The plan to shift 80 per cent of the NHS budget from primary care trusts to GP consortiums is immensely radical. Mr Lansley hopes it will save £5bn by 2015. But it will, in the short-term, cost £1bn in redundancy payments, and another £400m on new IT and buildings. The upheaval and reorganisation will cause huge strain, coming in tandem with £20bn of cuts. And there are legitimate worries that the greater competition to be introduced will allow private health firms to "cherry-pick" the work that produces quick profits, leaving complex cases to an overburdened NHS.

Earlier concern from nurses and NHS managers could be dismissed as self-serving. But GPs are the ones, in theory, set to benefit from the new reforms. If they are cautioning a rethink, David Cameron would be wise tolisten.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in