Peter Hoskin

A healthy alternative?

A healthy alternative?
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Martin Ivens writes a punchy article in today's Sunday Times, in which he castigates both the Government for wrecking the NHS and the Tories for not yet providing an alternative approach:

"Yes, nothing very much is happening any time soon in the good old NHS. People are still dying from cancer in greater numbers than in most civilised countries in Europe. Money is still being wasted from the great splurge on health presided over by Blair and Brown – spending has roared ahead. Productivity is still going south. It’s harder than ever to see a GP out of hours. True, a start has been made on allowing private contractors to provide services...

...In a garbled interview last week, Lansley gave the impression that taxpayer-funded spending on health would need to increase by a further £28 billion to 11% of GDP. The shadow chancellor, George Osborne, poured oil on troubled waters. A Tory administration would get value for money from the NHS and seek to reduce its burden. Yes, there’s gold at the end of the rainbow and the cheque is in the post.

If Lansley tells an audience of doctors and nurses that the Conservatives will no longer fiddle with the NHS like new Labour, he will get easy applause. Health workers are truly fed up with obtuse management and endless Whitehall directives. But after the clapping has died down he should ask that room whether the NHS should continue as it is...


...David Cameron, you present yourself as the future, the new politics. If you don’t offer the prime minister a challenge on health reform then another decade will be wasted. By not rocking the boat you think you will get more votes. Maybe. But you’ll be passing up a great opportunity and we will all be the losers."

This hits the Andrew Lansley nail on its head. Of course, it may be unrealistic for the Tories to flesh-out their health policies so far from a general election.  But until they do so, people won't hear (or believe?) the little verbal-footnotes which say: "Don't worry, we will get more value for money from the NHS".  Any indication of extra NHS spending will - rightly or wrongly - just seem like a pledge to repeat the disastrous approach of the past decade.  

All the more reason, then, for the Shadow Health Secretary to decline further interviews...