ANDY Burnham, the shadow health secretary, met with around 40 representatives of leading NHS organisations on Wednesday night, to discuss Labour policy for the future of the NHS.
Burnham urged the reps to support Labour’s ‘stability plan B’ which he said would avoid the need for the Health and Social Care Bill. Labour hopes that if all health unions support this ‘Plan B’ the Tories will drop the bill and adopt their plan.
He claims that key points of the Lansley bill could be carried out without legislation.
• that commissioning of health services could be handed to Clinical Commission Groups (CCGs) and that Primary Care Trust (PCT) clusters could continue to delegate these powers to the CCGs;
• the NHS Commissioning Board could be set up;
• the integration of health and social care could be achieved;
• Public Health England could proceed.
At the meeting were presidents and chief executives of organisations representing doctors, surgeons, midwives and nurses, including some Royal Colleges and the employers organisation, the NHS Federation.
It was Burnham, Health Minister in the last Labour government, who continued the measures to step up the privatisation of the NHS.
It was the Labour government which introduced the purchaser provider split with PCTs, turned hospitals into foundation trust businesses, launched the ‘Any Willing Provider’ policy and established the Co-operation and Competition panel.
Burnham championed ‘service redesign’, the plan to shift care out of hospitals and into the ‘community’, which campaigners see as shifting care out of publicly provided NHS hospitals and into privately provided clinics.
His government initiated the £20bn QIPP cuts that are now decimating the NHS, and are being used for re- structuring and bringing in the market.
Essentially Burnham is claiming that Labour’s policy of privatising the NHS can proceed without the need for a Health bill, and that the Tories are queering the pitch with their bill that has aroused massive opposition.
Many campaigners to defend the NHS as a public service are getting worried that the bill could be enacted in February of next year. They are keen to see a broad alliance of unions and colleges set up to defeat the bill.
Burnham has waited till the eleventh hour before trying to set up his ‘United Front’ diversion.
BMA Council member, Anna Athow, speaking in a personal capacity, said: ‘Unfortunately, this is not a campaign to scupper the bill. This is the Tory plan A just slowed down a bit.
‘We do need a huge broad alliance of unions and colleges, campaign groups and the general public, but not for substituting Labour’s privatisation plan for the Tory one, but to maintain the NHS as a publicly provided service.
‘My own view is that this Tory government must go. Basic NHS structures must be restored as in Scotland; health boards – no purchaser provider split, our publicly owned hospitals, no commercially run GPs surgeries and publicly provided community care.
‘We want our union, to launch its promised public campaign, with all of the unions along with it, to defeat the bill, as recently decided in the BMA’s change of policy.
‘Burnham thinks that the Tory bill is being defeated in struggle, and that its abandonment would halt the privatisation of the NHS.
‘Essentially he is seeking to ride to the rescue of the Tories and LibDems.’