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'We will hold them hard to account'


The shadow health team are concerned the NHS is being put through “the biggest upheaval in 60 years” and say they will be watching the government closely.

On Tuesday night, a group of health journalists and I shared an audience with John Healey MP and his shadow health team. By the looks of things, they are settling nicely into the position of being in opposition, taking the topic of challenging everything the government suggests very seriously. The NHS is going through its biggest changes since its inception, so health must be top of the opposition’s to-do lists, or rather to-challenge lists.

“We will hold them hard to account for what they say they will do and what they actually do,” said Healey. He criticised the government for falling well short on a number of promises that it had made already, such as protecting funding for the health service and improving cancer care.

His biggest criticism, though, was for putting the NHS through “the biggest upheaval in 60 years” when the finances “couldn’t be tighter”.

Healey revealed grave concerns about bringing in an “untested system at breakneck speed”.

Many healthcare professionals we have spoken to are equally concerned about the pressure to start implementing change so fast - even though changes must be in place by 2013, many are keen to get structures in place sooner rather than later and feel the impetus is on them to do so.

The government may be painting this as a land of opportunity, but many in the healthcare sector feel that they don’t have a map to help them navigate it. And some are also concerned about the language being used by politicians about PCTs, many of whom they feel have done a fantastic job. And many of them have done a fantastic job in doing exactly what the white paper seems to be wanting - services commissioned at local level for the good of the patient, with a real understanding of what’s needed, and with an eye on both outcomes and the till.

The feeling that the baby is being thrown out with the bathwater is frightening some PCTs, which feel they have accomplished much, and their achievements are being rubbished.

“First and foremost, we want to be there for patients,” said Healey on Tuesday night. And I’d imagine that is the mantra of everyone working in the health service.


Readers' comments (5)

  • Thank goodness they are doing just what an opposition party should be doing in protecting the NHS.

    I am not quite sure where John Healey and his team have been for the last 40 years, perhaps they are very young, but many of us would not agree that this is the "biggest upheaval in the last 60 years.

    The NHS has been the victim of political manouvering since the mid 1970's, and all political parties have been to blame for the constant restructuring that has occurred since that time.

    What is also clear to me, is that during the "times of plenty", there has been a significant increase in what l refer to as "non front line staff". If it takes, the biggest upheaval in 60 years to trim out the non jobs that have been created to run the services, then so be it.

    Whilst l do not agree with political interference in running the NHS, l do feel that this government should impose budget restrictions on managerial posts as Mrs Thatcher did in the 1980's, when they could not spend more than 10% of the total budget.

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  • anon above - i couldnt agree more with you

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  • changes to fast are worrying but isn't the object of their exercise to save money? hopefully the health of the nation and patients will not suffer as a result.

    it seems that the whole management structure and costs of, need altering before any beneficial changes can take place. would the system not be more functional if management were flatter and with more clinicians taking the lead in decision-making concerning patients and their treatment.

    it seems the services ran better pre the Griffiths report.

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  • Am I right in reading that after 13 years in office New Labour are preparing to, and have the nerve to criticise any actions of the present coalition government?

    They had ample opportunity to correct any faults in the NHS when in power but sat on their hands and allowed the service to sink under the top heavy weight of over administration.

    Shame on them all for it was they who continued the evil policies of Thatcherism.

    The real Labour politicians who set up the service must be spinning in their graves at the actions of Blair, Brown and their sycophants who allowed a service which was the envy of the world stagger on towards privatisation instead of reversing Thatcher's mantra.

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  • Hypocritical to say the least.

    Under 'Labour' we saw commissioning raise it's monstrous head within the NHS.

    We saw Private companies running sections of the health service.

    Perfect example: The Eccleshill treatment centre in Bradford run by a private non NHS company.

    Result: The death of a patient due to no blood on site during a cholecystectomy!

    That's Labour for you.

    They can spout all they like about the tories but fact is things were heading down the privatisation route with them anyway.

    Bottom line is you can't trust politicians. They are essentially self serving. And many of them (has we have seen) are also corrupt, lying, fraudulent individuals.

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