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Sajid Javid is right that the NHS needs fundamental change – but wrong on how to go about it

The way to save the health service is to put Wes Streeting in charge of it, writes John Rentoul

Tuesday 04 July 2023 16:42 BST
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Javid says a royal commission into the health service is needed to ‘make sure the NHS is here in another 75 years’
Javid says a royal commission into the health service is needed to ‘make sure the NHS is here in another 75 years’ (PA)

We know it is possible to make the National Health Service work, because Tony Blair did it. Some of his advisers were nervous when he said in 2002 that if the NHS was not “basically fixed” by the next election, “I am quite happy to suffer the consequences”, because they worried that it would be a hostage to fortune.

But the NHS was improving fast by the 2005 election, and it was in fact “basically fixed” by the end of the Labour government in 2010. Waiting lists had fallen to such a level that people were barely aware of them. Most targets were being met, allowing the NHS to focus on more difficult challenges, such as the early diagnosis and treatment of cancers. Patient satisfaction was at a record high.

So when Sajid Javid, who was health secretary for a year until a year ago, says that the NHS is “unsustainable” and needs “fundamental change”, the correct response is to point out that this is only true because we have had a Conservative government for 13 years that has systematically “un-fixed” it.

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