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Narrow Political Interests

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The Health and Social Care Bill has now passed, largely unchanged, through the report stage in the House of Lords, and on Tuesday survived by 314 votes to 260 a Labour motion in the House of Commons to scrap it. Despite widespread opposition from doctors, nurses, other NHS workers and the general public, the NHS ‘reforms’ that prioritise competition over quality of care look set to be implemented.

It’s tempting to point the finger of blame at the Lib Dems.
Campaigners at their spring conference put forward an emergency motion calling on the party to drop its support for the bill, but Lib Dems in both houses have helped to push it through parliament, even though a top-down structural reform of the NHS was explicitly ruled out by the coalition agreement in 2010.

In a letter sent to Lib Dem members before the conference, Andy Burnham wrote:

The truth is Labour’s narrow political interests are probably best served by the Coalition simply ploughing on with this disastrous Bill. But, even so, I desperately want them to stop.

There might have been a greater chance of stopping the bill if not only the Labour Party but also such bodies as the BMA had expressed more serious opposition to it a year ago.

Comments on “Narrow Political Interests”

  1. Paul Taylor says:

    I suspect Cameron is genuinely angry at Labour’s failure to offer an alternative to his ‘reforms’. He constantly replies to Labour’s attacks stating that the Labour Party knows that without these changes the NHS would, sooner rather than later, face a funding crisis. To him it is therefore hypocrisy and opportunism to oppose them. If you stop to think about it, Cameron’s point is revealing. The crisis to which he refers is not caused by the existing institutional arrangements, it is not a consequence of Trusts working cooperatively rather than in competition, or of commissioning being led by Primary Care Trusts and not Clinical Commissioning Groups. It is caused by burgeoning demand. What we are not being told, but should assume, is that the effect of the reforms will be to limit demand. The purpose of the reforms is to create a structure that will allow the politicians to escape the blame when the NHS has to cease providing some of the treatments that patients want.
    As the population gets older, and as the cheaper causes of death become less fashionable, and as technical advances enable more to be done to extend the end of life, so we can choose to spend an increasing proportion of our income on healthcare. For individuals this is a simple and obviously rational choice. For societies, it would be a humane and civilised choice. But for the politicians who would have to take the blame for the increased taxes, it is a crisis to be averted, even at the cost of the destruction of one of the country’s most cherished institutions.

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