Andy really showed his passion and commitment for the NHS. I’ve known Andy for many years and what you see is what you get – a thoroughly decent man who is really believes in the NHS. As both Ed Miliband and Andy have said – the NHS represents the values we hold so dear, as a country. He mentioned that in spite of the Tories and the Lib Dems breaking their promises to the electorate, tearing up the Coalition Agreement and almost universal condemnation of the Health Bill from patients, professionals and the public, the Government still went ahead with it. Now we have a Health and Social Care Act which, as we predicted, is privatising the NHS.
The Freedom of Information requests to every Clinical Commissioning Group in England revealed that at least 396 NHS services have been put out to tender. This represents over £118m which has been forced out to competition and another £143m which is out to tender for Any Qualified Provider (AQP) services. Another £6bn has been put out for tender but not through AQP. These services include diagnostic testing, podiatry, adult hearing, non-emergency ambulance services and Healthwatch. On top of this, this week NHS hospitals can now raise money by having half of their beds reserved for private patients; Labour’s health team has revealed this is already in the plans of a number of hospitals.
Andy reflected on what the last Labour Government got right in the NHS but also where we got it wrong. He also promised to take on board, for example, recommendations from the Francis Inquiry. However making it clear Labour believes that healthcare must continue to develop in this country Andy reiterated Ed’s promise to repeal the Health Act. He talked about his vision for an integrated health and social care service reflecting the needs of the 21st century. As with Professor Robert Winston, who also spoke at the Labour 2012 conference, Andy called for a holistic or ‘whole person’ approach to health and health care.
The next general election is going to be a referendum on the Tory and Lib Dems mishandling of the NHS as well as the economy.
Andy’s speech in full can be read at http://www.labour.org.uk/andy-burnhams-speech-to-labour-party-annual-conference-2012,2012-10-03