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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Labour self-destruct on health

Health is, of course fully devolved to the Welsh Government but that does not stop the First Minister and other Labour AMs distracting attention from their own failures by throwing all kinds of inaccurate accusations around about the Coalition Government's intentions towards the NHS.

It is interesting therefore, as revealed by this post on Liberal Democrat Voice, that Labour appear to have taken the decision to leave in place the reforms they have so vehemently derided and which they have characterised as privatisation and breaking up the health service.

As Mark Pack reports, at a Q&;A session, Labour leader Ed Miliband told delegates and reporters that:

I think what would be not sensible is for us to come along and say, ‘well, Andrew Lansley, now Jeremy Hunt, they’re changing all the arrangements, have these new clinical commissioning groups and so on, and we’re just going to reverse it all back and spend another £3bn on another top-down bureaucratic organisation.

Though his Shadow Health Secretary, Andy Burnham, was not exactly on message. He said:

I’ll repeal the Bill. Full stop.

Is that the same as reverse? Labour are all over the place on this issue, even more so when you consider their record. After all, it is not as if they do not have form when it comes to privatising the English NHS:
Many of these loopholes were plugged by the Coalition Government in the Health and Social Care Act. In particular, as a result of Liberal Democrat influence, the coalition ruled out any special favours to the private sector. From now on, no future Government will be able to deliberately favour the private sector over the NHS in the same manner as the last Labour Government.

Liberal Democrats also ensured that more services will now be covered by tariffs, so in the future private providers will only be allowed to offer their services for new treatments where they agree to meet NHS standards and be paid NHS prices.

Mental health services will now be covered by a tariff, so in the future private providers won’t be able to undercut the NHS through a race to the bottom on price and competition will now be based on quality, not price whilst commissioners will be required to follow “best value” principles when tendering for services not included in the tariff.

Finally, Liberal Democrats in Government established local Overview and Scrutiny Committees to scrutinise all health service providers receiving public funds including private providers. Foundation Trusts will now have to publish separate accounts for their public and private income, so that public income can never be used to subsidise private care.

Liberal Democrats secured changes to the Act so that Foundation Trusts cannot focus on private income at the expense of NHS patients and they made sure that every Trust has to spell out clearly how any additional private income will be spent to deliver better care for NHS patients.

No wonder Ed Miliband wants to keep the Act in place.
"Health is, of course fully devolved to the Welsh Government..."

Yes, and No, Peter. The Welsh Government is dependent on the Block Grant, which is dependent on the Barnett Formula, which is dependent on what happens to the the structure and costs of the NHS in England. Any changes there directly affects how much money the WG gets. It's a kind of sham devolution, more appearance than reality.

It's a mirage created by Labour, but gladly supported by the Tories and LibDems.. supposedly the 'Home Rule' party.

The word from Manchester today is that Labour would repeal the Health and Social Welfare Act in its entirety. What are we expected to believe?

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