Wednesday, April 06, 2011


Lansley's Back Againt Wall over NHS

I've just been listening to Andrew Lansley getting done over by Eddie Mair on Radio 4's 'PM'. He sounded rattled and unconvincing. The centre-piece of the Health Secretary's NHS reforms comprise gathering GPs into 'consortia' to dispose of some £80bn of taxpayer's money to pay for patient treatment. Lansley is well known as a health specialist and an assiduous student of its many strengths ad weaknesses. Unfortunately, six months of 'consultation' have not made the pill any easier to swallow and battalions of health interests have lined up against him, not to mention his boss and deputy boss.

So far, these forces include: the Royal College of Nursing, the Royal College of GPs, the BMA, the Liberal Democrat Party at its spring conference and a majority of voters. Cameron and Clegg are not included in that list as direct opponents but we know neither are best pleased with Andy's stewardship of his portfolio to date and have taken over its advocacy. Humiliating enough for Eddie Mair to ask him if he was considering resignation, a suggestion he, unsurprisingly, rejected.

But decades of studying British politics has taught me that when the weasel words 'failures of presentation rather than policy' are brought into play, it means governments have got it wrong and don't know quite what to do. Lib Dem MPs want to see a wider selection of interests on the GP commissioning committees, though I think the most urgent requirement must be to pilot these radical, untested reforms in different parts of the country.

It also worries me greatly that:

i) Lansley, in opposition earned £134 an hour from a firm of food advertisers.

ii) Lansley in opposition was receiving substantial sums from John Nash, chairman of Care UK and founder of Sovereign Capital a private equity company which owns a number of private healthcare companies. The sort of companies, in fact, which are standing to benefit from the very reforms Lansley is seeking to introduce. Such a conflict of interest is quite flagrant and shameful, revealing once again the canard that apparent Tory concern for the NHS is merely a front for plans to subvert it into private sector gain.

Living in Scotland I haven't taken a great deal of interest in what the Coalition has been proposing for the NHS in England. I have since read a little more and the thing that strikes me ia that the thinking underneath the changes looks suspiciously like the thinking that went into rail privatisation - the fragmentation of a national system into its component parts; the introduction of 'competition' into health provision and the consequent beanfeast for accountants and lawyers; the fundamental misunderstanding of much the NHS's problems is that it is over-administered, especially by civil servicde control freakery and woefuly undermanaged. It goes on.

You've clearly identified the hidden agenda of concession to private interests to cherry pick underlying Ransley's proposals and this sems on its own enough to torpedo the plan. I suspect political fear will do the rest.
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