Forest of Dean & Wye Valley

HEALTH WATCH: NHS REFORMS – were they all a big mistake?

In A.Graham on January 30, 2015 at 1:12 pm

Well, who’d have thought it? According to a front page story in Murdoch’s Times newspaper, “senior Tories have admitted that re-organising the NHS was the biggest mistake they have made in government.”  (The Times. October 13 2014).

According to the usual Downing Street sources, David Cameron failed to understand what the reforms were all about, whilst George Osborne now regrets that he didn’t prevent a “huge strategic error”.

Neither Cameron nor Osborne, it seems, realised the “explosive extent “ of the plans drawn up by Andrew Lansley (the then Health Secretary) which were described as “unintelligible gobbledygook”.

According to The Times investigation, at least £5 billion is wasted every year on inefficiencies – such as “overpaying for supplies, out-of-date drugs, agency workers and empty buildings”.   And “trolley waits” to get into hospital from A&E are running at almost three times the 2011 level.

Another gaff committed by Lansley was to abolish NHS funding bodies and instead gave £63 billion to new GP-led groups to spend on services as they saw fit. This in turn led to a lengthy fight with health unions , who declared that the reforms would not only be disruptive, but would fragment care and open the door for more privatisation of the NHS.

“A former No 10 adviser said: ‘no-one apart from Lansley had a clue what he was really embarking on, certainly not the Prime minister. He kept saying his grand plans had the backing of the medical establishment and we trusted him. In retrospect it was a mistake’.”

You’re not kidding. Clare Gerada, chair of the Royal College of GPs, was quoted as saying, “I think politicians and policy makers need to have a long hard look at themselves. The big issue is that nobody has been held accountable for it. If Mr Lansley had been a doctor, he would have been referred to the General Medical Council.”

Another quote from a critic declares that “you’ve got leaders in the NHS re-arranging the deck chairs when we’re about to hit the iceberg.”

Only Jeremy Hunt, Lansley’s successor as Health Secretary, was prepared to defend the reforms.  Meanwhile Mark Porter, chair of the BMA, said: “Rather than listening to the concerns of patients, the public and frontline staff who vigorously opposed the top-down re-organisation, politicians shamefully chose to stick their head in the sand and plough on regardless.”

The Times may have a different take on the NHS than the Clarion – but it is after all a Murdoch newspaper. Our approach would be more akin to the paper produced by Professor Allyson Pollock and Peter Roderick (outlined in our last issue).

But it is worth reminding us why we fought so hard and vigorously to save the NHS – and remembering why the fight must go on.

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