“If the advance of the market is not stopped it will devour all that is precious about our NHS. It will push the NHS over the cliff edge to which government policy has delivered it. The choice is between an integrated, whole person care under Labour and a fragmented marketised system under the Con-Dems. “ Andy Burnham.

 UNISON North West has hosted Andy Burnham, as Shadow Secretary of State for Health, in a press conference to launch his campaign to secure the survival of the NHS for the next century. His vision is arguably as radical as the introduction of the NHS in 1948. He counterposed an integrated, whole person care to the Tories fragmented market driven approach which threatened the future survival of our beloved NHS. He called on all the parties to present their plans so the public can see a proper debate over this most vital of issues.

 He began by charting the disastrous impact of 4 years of the Con-Dem government on the NHS. The wrong policy at the wrong time that no one had voted for. The promise had been no more top-down reorganisations. He talked of the breath taking audacity of Andrew Lansley’s plans never mentioned in the election to treat the NHS as just another utility . Who had voted for this?  He   reminded us that Labour had predicted that this biggest top-down reorganisation  in the NHS’s history would damage services. Today he charted in detail the up to date facts on how  the government policy had played out. The reorganisation had cost £3 billion, £1.6 billion on redundancies, with agency bills rocketing as the NHS is forced to rehire due to the damage done. He exposed longer waiting lists, A&E stretched to breaking point , longer ambulance response times and for the first time the failure to meet the Government cancer treatment targets. As well as the burden of reorganisation , the wrong policy at the worst of all times, he exposed the collapse of our social care funding forcing hospitals to take on that role. This has lead to a  malnorished minimum wage system, where the minimum wage was not even paid due to unpaid travel between appointments. This results in a big increase in late discharges as older people are confined to hospital. Incentives in the system currently  work against providing the care needed  as hospitals are paid for patients they take and local care services can’t cope. The privatisation of the NHS was continuing apace, had passed the £10 billion barrier and the speed will increase. The patient transport service in Manchester had been sold off to a bus company without public consultation. Whilst the claim that GPs would be given real power in the new system as commissioners had failed as the Royal College of General Practitioners has stated  that the profession has been brought to its knees. Whilst the finances have not  improved with 3 in 10 Trusts in financial danger compared to 1 in 10 in 2010. Also a post code lottery had afflicted the service, with in some areas hip operations being denied unless patients are in severe pain. The travesty of the Competition Commission ruling against two hospitals working together on the grounds it defies marklet principles. Despite the best efforts of NHS staff, working under tremendous pressure, the Government reforms had proved disastrous.   Yet the Government’s response has been denial.

 Labour will Repeal the Con-Dem Health and Social Care Bill.

  • Labour will campaign throughout the summer to build support for a private member’s bill to repeal the worst aspects before the General Election.
  • Andy Burnham is writing to the Chief Executive of the NHS to call for a pause on all privatisation in the service to allow the next Government to decide the way forward after a full public debate.
  • Labour offer a vision of an integrated care service where services are no longer trapped by the barriers and obstacles of narrow and rigid contracts and where the expensive transaction costs of the market are swept  away.
  • Labour will stop and reverse the advance of the market which is not what the public want or the service needs.
  • Labour will deliver whole person care ; physical, mental and social health being considered together. Ending the scandal of people with mental health issues dying 15-20 years younger than others.
  • End the division between hospital and primary care, with a much greater emphasis on caring for people at home, not in hospital. A new form of generalism.
  • Be proud of our NHS, the corner stione of the Olympic Games opening, which delivers comprehensive care for all on less than 10% of GDP, far cheaper than alternatives abroad.
  • A 21st Century service that caters for our ageing society. That provides a health promoting and preventative service of which Bevan dreamed.

 He ended by reminding us of the Aneurin Bevan quote that the NHS would survive as long as there were people to fight for it. He urged us to think how we will answer the question of our grand children as to “what did you do when the NHS was in danger?”.

 The audience, including the BBC and media outlets, included local campaigners and trade unionists. Mo Baines, Manchester Branch, raised concerns about ‘mutualisation’, the notion of market principles in none-private providers. Other questions covered  GP services , mental health , current health reorganisation in Manchester and the issue of how to balance a negative campaign against the government’s disatrous record and the need to push the positive vision on offer today.

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