There have probably been more words written about the NHS than any other topic since the coalition government was formed nearly two years ago, with most attention falling on the tussle between the coalition partners over the final form of the bill.
But we should not overlook Labour’s contribution to the current maelstrom; no matter who had come to power in 2010, they would have had to grasp the nettles which were flourishing following Labour’s 2006 National Health Service Act, which brought widespread competition into the NHS (though without the public debate that is now taking place). The 2006 Act opened up the NHS to the risk of EU competition law being applied in a way that leaves commissioners unable to choose the best way of delivering services. And Labour’s legislation meant that private providers were favoured over NHS hospitals and paid millions for work which they never did.
Lib Dems, in the Commons and the Lords, are not only fighting Andrew Lansley’s ill-considered reorganisation of the NHS, they are also plugging the many loopholes left by Labour’s 2006 Health Act, including:
- out of hours work was handed over to the private sector
- Labour rigged the market in favour of the private sector (e.g.Independent Sector Treatment Centres were paid around 11% more than the NHS price)
- There was no overall cap on private income for Foundation Trusts
- There was no provision in the legislation to say all private income profit must be reinvested in NHS services
- Labour deliberately went out of their way to encourage the involvement of the private sector. Labour’s PFI contracts for the NHS have left the Government a total liability of £65 billion.
The involvement of the Lib Dems will surely leave the NHS in a better position than it would have been had the Tories had it all their own way. But what about Labour? What would they be doing now, if they had won the 2010 election? Well, it’s worth having a quick look at their 2010 manifesto, which includes the following:
“All hospitals will become Foundation Trusts … Foundation Trusts will be given the freedom to expand their provision into primary and community care, and to increase their private … services … We will support an active role for the independent sector working alongside the NHS in the provision of care … Patient power will be increased. Patients will have the right to choose from any provider who meets NHS standards of quality at NHS costs … We will expand patient choice, empowering patients with information, and giving individuals the right to determine the time and place of treatment.”
Hmm. Sound familiar?